Next year, our industry needs to get real

We've done nothing to allay the frustrating blight on the work that we do so passionately and doggedly, argues the co-founder of School

Global ad spending is on the rise. Our industry is attracting more talent. Marketers are spending more on the Super Bowl and at Cannes. But despite the optimistic indicators, we would be crazy not to see the consumer writing on our industry’s proverbial wall we’re losing relevance and the things we make may not be the things people want.

Let’s be honest with ourselves and get real as an industry in 2016. So many people don’t want to see what we make for clients, at least not while they are engulfed in content they want to watch uninterrupted. The creation of ad-blocking technology is rampant and, other than the Super Bowl, people try hard to avoid ads. With ad blocking allowed on Safari (the browser available for free on every iPhone in the world), the avoidance of ads will most certainly increase. 

People will likely continue to get up off the couch every time a commercial comes on, muttering to themselves that the TV-watching experience is better on paid platforms like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime. Products like the TiVo BOLT (full disclosure: our client) give us the ability to skip entire commercial breaks with the touch of a single button. We as an industry have a conundrum. The harder we try to stay relevant, the easier it is for the audience to ignore us completely. 

What do we do? Adapt and adjust. While consumers don’t like commercial interruptions, they do like experiences. It’s even scientifically proven. According to a study published in Psychological Science last year, "experiential purchases (money spent on doing) tend to provide more enduring happiness than material purchases (money spent on having)." According to this research, experiential purchases are also more associated with identity, connection and social behavior. That’s a finding that could prove bullish for brands that make their consumer experiences more experiential than transactional. Marketing efforts must be more engaging than programmatic if they are going to breakthrough viewer blinders.

People are demanding real-life experiences and real-world content that brings us together. I’ve often opined, and written for Campaign US, that great experiential work in the real-world is fantastic fodder for exceptional above-the-line creative.

If people participate in the advertising experience, they are much more likely to share, remember and authenticate their branded experiences. This is key because our industry doesn’t really inspire a lot of trust or authenticity. And we’ve done nothing to allay this frustrating blight on the work that we do so passionately and doggedly. 

With everyone shifting focus onto programmatic and ad-trading, eyeballs are bought and sold in massive quantities. If we created more experiences that resonated with savvy viewers, they would likely organically share brand stories at no cost at all. As brand stewards, we need to pave the way for marketers to share their stories via experiences that complement consumer habits, not invade them.

We need to get real. Our audience wants real experiences, not ads everywhere. Our audience has upped the ante on great, authentic creativity and wants great, not good.

My wish for 2016 is that our industry emphasizes our human-centric mediums — experiential, digital, social, purpose — a lot more robustly. Not just leverage and exploit these channels, but use them to make our work more human. More meaningful. More real. 

Max Lenderman is co­-founder of School, a purposeful creative shop based in Boulder, San Francisco and New York and part of the Project:WorldWide family of agencies.

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