Monday, December 01, 2008


There was a very interesting and exciting discussion that was published in the New York Times Sunday Magazine a week ago about the proliferation of screens and how it’s changed advertising forever. Benjamin Palmer, Lars Bastholm and Robert Rasmussen, three advertising guys spoke forthrightly about the state of advertising today. They discussed the fact that advertising has always been persuasive, but now it needs to make a shift into the authentic zone because young people can actually check on the Internet to see if the claims are even close to being true—creating a new marketing “transparency”. That can throw a real big curve ball to advertisers and their creative people. Lars Bastholm, who has worked onXbox, Coke and Motorola campaigns, sets the record straight, “Most media, like television, used to be a kind of flow. You’d sit down, you’d turn it on and you’d watch. The reason advertising is completely broken is that the flow doesn’t exist anymore. There’s no prime time. There’s no such thing as must-see TV. Everyone’s composing their own flow.”

We are still in the age where the advertisers are trying to figure out how to deal with all the content creation and the lack of the Millennial audience’s interest in television, the old-time prime advertising vehicle. Brands need to find a way to have a relationship with their audience. In 2006, BBDO’s GenWorld Teen Study argued, “If your brand wants a relationship with this generation (Millennials) connect them to each other…hype causes apathy, but meaning energizes. To stand out, be a brand that matters.”

Bastholm provides an incredibly astute case study about EA Sports, a brand getting it right and interacting with its audience. “On YouTube, someone posted a clip of himself playing the company’s Tiger Woods golf game. He put it up as a joke, laughing at EA Sports, because he had discovered a glitch in the programming that allowed Tiger to walk right out onto a pond next to the golf course and shoot his ball from there. So the company saw the video, and in response, it uploaded this ad to YouTube that said: “It’s not a glitch. He’s just that good.” The ad showed the real Tiger, in live action, actually walk on water and shoot a ball.” This shows an ingenious ability on the part of an advertiser to take a risk and fly with it. However, according to Benjamin Palmer that’s certainly not the norm at the moment. Advertisers are resistant to changing with the times and the shift in audience, “They assume their business practices will carry on forever.”

Well they simply won’t be able to afford to do that any longer. In February the digital signal will take over from analog and it won’t be too long before the “TV” just becomes a big screen to view all the content available—at home. There will be billions and billions of websites and other media and pop culture, and advertising will need to find its place, but not in its typical “overkill” manner. Then there’s the wide world of the mobile screen, as well. Brands will need to figure out how to make a long term, “authentic” connection between their brands and media consumers. They better get crackin’. In the meantime, it’s fun to watch and be a part of what’s happening.