It appears the oldest question in advertising is now the newest. (No, this does not include, “Can you make the logo bigger?”) The question is, “How do we get through to people?”
The traditional advertising industry is still confronted by this seemingly Paleolithic question because, throughout marketing’s long history, the question never had to be adequately addressed. Until now.
Being realistic, the question probably began more like, “How do we get OUR MESSAGES across to CONSUMERS?” At some agencies, that mindset hasn’t changed in roughly 100 years. But that mindset, of course, no longer works. Adland really must stop bombarding people with messages that brands want to broadcast and concentrate, instead, on serving the real interests of real people.
At Story, we’ve been consistently focused for a decade on how to get through to people in a world where most don’t like ads and all are increasingly empowered by technology to ignore, avoid or block them. More broadly, we’ve been obsessed with the myriad ways the all-encompassing Internet has worked vast changes across media that, at long last, have put the audience in complete control of what they see and hear.
Story used to share its discoveries and observations about this brave new world in a free-form, moderately rebellious ’zine about the ad biz called “Post Advertising.” The name dates back to March 2006, when we registered some URLs to lay claim to a new era in marketing: postadvertising.com, postadvertisingage.com, postadage.com and a few more variations.
As it grew, Post Advertising was consistently mentioned among the top marketing blogs with 10,000-plus unique visitors monthly. About three years ago, driven by a mix of ennui and being crazy busy, we stopped posting on Post Advertising. Oddly, even without new material, Post Advertising continued to draw a sizeable audience to its trove of content about marketing in a new landscape.
Today, we are re-starting Post Advertising, committed never again to stop. Mostly, we’re back because nearly everything we predicted about the new era of marketing has come true and now the entire industry understands that traditional advertising is crumbling, just like the rest of the legacy media business—music, newspapers, broadcast TV, books and so on.
One proofpoint of the usefulness of Post Advertising is that the ancient question—How do we gain and maintain people’s interest?—has resurfaced in 2016 as the biggest concern of senior U.S. marketers. eMarketer reported recently that atop wish list of senior marketers in the U.S. is the desire to find a “customer-centric focus” across platforms and technologies.
It’s odd, of course, to find senior marketers still wishing or looking for a customer-centric focus. You’d think they’d have located one already—that brands and their agencies would have resolved this fundamental question a long time ago.
But, truthfully, the majority of brands and agencies never really addressed the fundamental question of audience interests. They mostly went around it. They were blessed by a media landscape with very few channels, all controlled by corporate interests. In this limited, controllable world, they used an approach that senior advertising research expert Joe Plummer calls “Interrupt and Repeat.” By interrupting people repeatedly on a limited number of available channels, it was relatively easy to force people to pay attention to ads no matter what. So brands and their agencies focused on flooding all media channels with brand-centric messages, not people-centric stories.
Today, no one can afford to force attention by filling all channels with narcissistic product claims and messages that mean nothing to most people. There are way too many channels and platforms for that kind of behavior. More importantly, customers have taken charge, declaring themselves annoyed by advertising, especially on mobile. Ad avoidance is achieving cult status. The audience, not the advertiser, controls all media choices.
Back in 2006, Story defined the Post-Advertising Age as the time “when the only messages people see and hear are the ones they choose to see and hear.” Today, that time clearly has arrived almost universally. Finally we can stop worrying about persuading people the Post-Advertising Age has arrived and, instead, focus on how brands can effectively engage with people in this new era.
It’s now past time to invent a new approach to advertising that puts the audience’s needs and desires first and connects directly with people, informing and entertaining them with genuinely honest stuff. That’s why Story exists. (To read a bit more about the Story doctrine of “audience first,” see “The Audience Takes Charge,” a post I just wrote for Chief Content Officer magazine.)
We want Post Advertising once again to help enrich the conversation about the future of marketing and media while reporting on some of the best and best-working solutions being executed here in the present. We hope you’ll tune in regularly and add your voice to the comments.
Over the years, I’ve said many times to many audiences, “Welcome to the Post-Advertising Age.” Today, it’s, “Welcome back.”