Volume 2, Issue 27
Sharing with you our contribution to the Wharton Advertising 2020 Project
Today a new company, Thinaire, is placing low-cost links to digital content in physical objects such as shelf-talkers and magazines. People can just tap their mobile phone to the object and the content appears on their screen and can be shared in the usual ways — plus by tapping a friend’s phone whereupon the content leaps phone to phone. This is only one small part of the continuing evolution of all (including in-store) media into digital media. All print media, to the extent that they continue to involve printed copies, will utilize links like Thinaire’s to become woven seamlessly into the one digital mediasphere that is forming. Radio is migrating into digital, and cellphone+stereo earpods will be the next stage both by radio receivers in phones and by all-digital stations springing up, led by Pandora.
The advertising industry is gradually becoming aware that sponsorship of good content (including fun/social games) and of good causes has far greater power to win hearts and minds than interruptive pitch/offer messages no matter how clever. In his book Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at The World’s Greatest Companies, Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer of Procter & Gamble, says “If you’re willing to align your business with a fundamental human ideal, you too can achieve extraordinary growth.” In his study of 50,000 brands, Jim found that those who grew the fastest 2000-2010 — on average three times faster than the overall group — had one thing in common. They were explicitly linked in people’s minds with fundamental human values such as joy, connection to other people, adventurousness, pride, and the desire to improve society (see the excellent issue of strategy + business published by Booz & Company, Autumn 2012, page 81). To yours truly, who has been saying similar things to advertisers and agencies since 1976, this is the most important insight of business and marketing in the last 100 years now that Jim has brilliantly put a sharp point on it. The brands that are winning are the idealists who bind themselves to enduring human values. Advertising would do well to “get” this learning and apply it in a sweeping redefinition of what advertising is. In this scenario we assume the industry will “get it”.
The Upside Future Scenario for Advertising
Today Cause Marketing is still only a billion-dollar slice of the advertising pie but in the future, with the precise media/creative ROI measurement now available, things that work will quickly balloon to the level justified by their economic efficacy. As Bob DeSena says, you can’t optimize it until you measure it. And once you measure something, it is highly likely that soon after that, the measurements will start to show improvements. CMOs and bright agencies will devise mixtures of Cause, Game, and Social aspects to make advertising and even promotion far more intriguing, fun, and self-satisfying for media audiences.
New forms of web-based testing, brain and psychographic research will develop that will help us understand how people tick so much better than today, equipping creatives with powerful insights to help shape effective messages. Sophistication and creativity will merge into advertising that is not only rational, emotive, perceptual and intuitive but also appeals to whole human beings instead of to one small layer of their most mundane purchasing interests. Share of ROI Uplift will become a way that media and agencies are compensated, with trusted third-party research companies led by the ARF, ANA and 4As ensuring that the ROI report cards are scientific and objective. The media business will become more fun for all with fewer doomsday scenarios and a never-ending game of day-to-day surprises enabled by technology and human ingenuity. Resistance to advertising, which had always been futile, will now also become nearly extinct due to the enjoyability of the new formats.
What should we do NOW to achieve it
Probably the best organization to make this scenario come true is the Ad Council. This estimable organization is in touch with the Philanthropy “industry” (an oxymoron since they are all by definition nonprofits) and is always discoursing with them about advertising as a force for social good. Upping their game, they would bring in companies who have the ability to read sales effects of advertising, and would engage the cable industry to use cable zones for A/B testing of equal allocations of media dollars to BAU (Business As Usual) vs. new formulations of crossmedia Cause marketing gamified and made into Social media. Besides the Ad Council, there are heroes amongst us who are recruiting celebrities to help power creative innovation to serve social needs — people such as Bill Rouhana, Ed Martin, James Colmenares, and Rabbi Irwin Katsof, to name only a few of the veritable Army of Light that is self-forming around us in response to historical necessity.
The true investment required would be media costs — which are low in cable zones — and creative costs, which would be the major part in this case. The advertisers willing to lead this charge would be those who agree with Jim Stengel’s analysis of what makes companies successful today: caring about social good — which Jim has analyzed in relation to financial data to prove his case conclusively. Stengel’s article has not been widely quoted yet but is actually the shot heard round the world for the future of the advertising business. When Jim’s findings have been doubly verified by extensive A/B testing across many product categories, the seismic shift toward tying one’s messages to the larger concerns of humanity will be fully underway.
Best to all,