|The New Digital Advertising World|
Social media has empowered brands to break their own news instead of relying on advertising or PR to disseminate their message. As brands become increasingly comfortable with social media on the whole, more budget and attention is being focused on high quality content created specifically for the social web. New Wave of Advertisers Consider Consumers the New Medium.
The spot for Chipotle Mexican Grill starts bleak and gets bleaker: the story of a farmer who becomes Big Agriculture, maltreating his pigs and polluting the water as winter descends. It's long, at two minutes and 20 seconds, and told entirely via stop-motion puppetry. There's no dialogue, only the spooky crooning of Willie Nelson. And the Chipotle logo appears just once, at the very end, on a truck pulling away from a farm returned to its roots, chickens pecking freely in the sun. At any number of companies, the ad would have been killed for any number of reasons. It's unfunny. Political. Expensive to air. There was also a chance that it was brilliant.
Mark Crumpacker, a career creative director uploaded the video to YouTube, rather than gambling on a pricey TV buy. He watched as the clip quietly but steadily went viral. The band Coldplay, whose track "The Scientist" Nelson covered in the ad, told its 18 million Facebook fans to take a look. Twitter buzzed. Food blogs, then music blogs, then advertising blogs all chirruped their approval. The message worked after all: Chipotle cares about sustainable farming. Encouraged by the online response, Crumpacker ran the ad, titled "Back to the Start," in movie theaters nationwide. Field researchers brought back tales of audiences bursting into applause. YouTube views climbed past 5 million. All of this led, last month, to the burrito chain buying the first national TV time in its 18-year history. And during a Grammy Awards watched by 39 million people, the critical response was unequivocal: Chipotle's ad stole the show. Unorthodox as it is, Chipotle's spot can be seen as a template for the future of great advertising. Ignoring conventional wisdom about what works in which medium—jokes on TV, wordplay in print, cats on the Web—the company focused instead on a single, piercing idea that works on all of them. And by using the Internet as a platform for testing worthwhile work, not just zaniness, Chipotle took the risk out of a risky piece of marketing. While passive viewers still exist today, mostly we pick and choose what to consume, ignoring ads with a touch of the DVR remote. Ads are forced to become more like content, and the best aim to engage consumers so much that they pass the material on to friends—by email, Twitter, Facebook—who will pass it on to friends, who will ... you get the picture. In the industry, "viral" has become a usefully vague way to describe any campaign that spreads from person to person, acquiring its own momentum. It's not that online advertising has eclipsed TV, as some industry pundits have predicted, but it has become its full partner—and in many ways the more substantive one, a medium in which the audience must be earned, not simply bought. Going viral is no longer a lucky accident or fringe tactic, but the default expectation of any ambitious campaign, on any platform. "If it goes viral, it's ratification of it being good 'creative,'?" says Crumpacker, 49. "And if it doesn't, you're like, 'Oh, God, what did I do wrong?'?" The global advertising industry is estimated at $500 billion, and if you are a human with the capacity for thought, you are aware that most of it is Derek. The ads that do break through the flood tide of pablum come, more often than not, from a shifting handful of hot agencies—the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryces of today. Some, like Wieden + Kennedy, have led the "it" list of creative firms for years; newer shops, like Droga5, Mother, and Johannes Leonardo, climb on or fall off based on their ability to convince clients that they can navigate the fractured way Americans consume media today. That means the best agencies of 2012 are obsessed with making campaigns—whether for Fortune 500 accounts or upstart brands—that get ratified online.
At a time when we can tune out commercials with a quick click, one cutting-edge Ad Man is finding ways to dump the old system and sell motorcycles—without ads. Jeff Rosenblum explains that the new digital advertising world is revolutionizing the way we plan and create advertising campaigns: "The entire advertising industry is stuck in the past and desperately needs to be blown up and reinvented.Advertising hasn't changed since the 1960s. But we're on the verge of a revolution. People are starting to realize that there are more effective ways to build a brand than through advertising." The Internet, by giving consumers a voice, has rendered that strategy useless because consumers can now sink a brand with a blitz of online complaints. His advice to big brands: instead of pumping millions of dollars into advertising, why not invest that money into actually fixing your company? Don't just say you're great—actually try to be great. Once you've done that, you can use social media to spread the word. In this brave new world, the role of advertising agencies would change as well. Instead of being a pack of well-paid liars, ad agencies would act more like consultants, helping companies figure out how to fix their businesses and improve their brand reputation based on actual accomplishments. The problem is that most big agencies either can't or won't adapt to this way of thinking. They're still cranking out 30-second spots and splattering banner ads on Web sites, even though it's become clear that we've all become very good at tuning out those advertisements. The big ad agencies stick with their 50-year-old business model because they don't know what else to do. As a result, Rosenblum says, the entire advertising industry, which is worth $150 billion in the U.S., $300 billion worldwide, is about to get blown to bits.
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