Ciaran Watkins – Where Will Advertising Be In Five Years Time? Right Here.

Posted on May 1, 2011 by


A couple of years ago I wrote my dissertation on what I thought the state of the advertising world would be like in five years time. The piece was entitled “What Will The World Of Advertising Be Like In Five Years?”. Catchy right? It actually did me well, and I managed to write myself all the way to a first.

I’m telling you this, because it’s now two and half years later, and I’m going to take a look back and see if I was right. As much as I want to, I won’t edit the text. I try to be a perfectionist with writing, so I’d probably try to rewrite the entire thing if given a second chance. Not this time though, so you’ll have to excuse me for sounding vague, any spelling or grammatical errors, and of course, if it’s really really boring or not. Here’s past me dropping a sick introduction for all of you folks out there.

The question [What will the advertising world be like in five years?] I have presented myself with is vastly open-ended. It has an infinite amount of answers, none of which could end up being true. After all, no one can predict the future. However, if we can look at advertising as it was, and as it is now, we can formulate a coherent vision for its future.

It is possible to do this by exploring how monumental inventions throughout time affected the way we look at advertisements, and then we can apply this knowledge to the invention of new products and media that can expand advertising as a form of communication, persuasion, and as an art form.

Wowsers, what an intro! An ‘art form’ though? Sounds a bit wankery if you ask me. Anyway, there is a point to all of this I promise! Through out the essay I looked at inventions that changed advertising; the television, mobile phones, computer games, the internet, and I also looked at a few case studies; Cadbury’s Gorilla, The Subservient Chicken, Honda’s Cog, The Natural Confectionery Company, Sony’s Bravia collection, and Guinness’ hands. These all led me to this particular (and heavily shortened) conclusion.

The notion of oblique advertising will become more prevalent within the advertising industry, mainly through the method of television advertising. Oblique advertising is refreshing to watch as noted during the case studies of Cadbury’s Gorilla, Honda’s Cog, Barclay’s Water Slide and to some extent the Sony Bravia collection. The idea of an audience being entertained in return of being sold a product is an idea that seems to be flowing through the industry at the moment. As already noted earlier;

“Advertising can be effective without a traditional ‘message’, ‘proposition’ or ‘benefit’.”

“The secret to many of the smash hits lately is to succeed in entertaining people with something new and clever.”

Advertisers should not try to focus on one key area of media. Television, print, radio, billboard, digital, mobile phone and in-computer-game-advertising are all methods in which the advertiser can hook an audience, but as the audience becomes more aware to their surrounding, it’s going to take some entertaining to keep the audience watching and talking.

The next five years are going to be a rough time for the advertising industry with the recession on the horizon, and advertising budgets being cut by most companies . However, new technologies and ways to engross audiences are being made readily available [digital, IGA, mobile phone] and it is the advertiser’s job to talk to their audiences, and now more than ever, keep the audiences entertained.

Five years from now, advertising will still be a multi-billion dollar business, and the likes of print, digital and television adverts will still be prevalent; it’s just that they might take on an entirely different format to the oblique, viral, entertainment route they are taking now. There will always be advertising, no matter what shape or form it decides to take in the future, because as David Ogilvy himself said all those years ago;

“We Sell – Or Else”

Ending on Ogilvy, I’m a sucker for a good quote. I’ve edited a lot out of my conclusion, but it was basically a three thousand word rant about how oblique, viral and the new digital sectors (mobile, e-book, iPad, online) are going to be the biggest ‘sellers’ in the industry. Again, the reason I’m telling you this, and why I’m dragging up an essay that’s almost three years old is because I saw an advert the other day. An advert that after I watched it at the halfway point in the timescale used by my ‘what if’ essay, I sat back in my chair, let out a little smile, and felt like I had managed to hit the nail right on the head of ‘what if’. Here is that advert.

I’d only gone and got it right, even if only for one campaign (I could actually point you to hundreds of examples of how I was technically correct, but that’s not fun is it). There I was, watching an advert for a well-known brand, that had forsaken it’s old approach, and rolled out the oblique styling. Why am I considering my self right? You have to read my definition of oblique advertising to understand that;

This is a style of advertising that’s becoming more and more prevalent within the global market. In a sense, advertisers are keeping the audiences entertained while references to any sort of product are kept to a very minimal status. Alex Benady explains it perfectly when he wrote; “The traditional commercial was a scientifically modulated piece of communication in which consumer behaviour was scrutinised, product use closely studied and desired responses deliberated upon at length. In the new approach [oblique advertising], almost anything can be inserted into the branded space as long as it is entertaining and brings joy”.

That’s exactly the approach the new KFC advert takes. The brand isn’t actually mentioned by name at all! Sure, you can see small parts of the KFC logo on the boxes throughout, but at the end we’re presented with the Colonel’s face, a recognised logo yes, but absolutely no brand name. One point to me!

Secondly, the entire advert is entertaining to a point. It’s not exactly a fast paced ‘ride of your life’ experience, but it should bring joy to most people. I’m sure the idea behind the ad is to make viewers remember family get togethers, and the amazing times they had at them. After watching the advert, I sat and thought about the huge family party we had for the last birthday party we held for my Granddad before he passed away. The entire family was there, and we all had a belting time. We sure as hell didn’t eat KFC, but I don’t think that was the idea. It’s a moment I’ll never forget in life, and it’s nice that a fast food chain managed to bring that thought to the front of my brain via an advertisement. That’ll be point two for me as well.

It’s strange really, apart from me gloating, what I think I’m trying to say is that advertising isn’t inherently evil, and can be a legitimate form of entertainment. This advert by KFC, while it tries to sell you chicken under the promise of a great family meal, doesn’t actually say “hey you, you there, buy this food”, instead it adopts an approach of joy-giving. Someone who doesn’t eat KFC isn’t going to rush out and buy an entire bucket for themselves after watching this ad, but they very well might remember the last time they sat down as a family and ate, drank, talked, and laughed their evening away. If anything it’s promoting family values, and I can only support that.

Advertising, with all it’s flaws, is still a form of communication, and it’s up to agencies world-wide to make sure they’re communicating in the correct manner. Oblique advertising is the perfect way to engage a potential customer. It’s a way showing them an idea, something funny, something cool, or something genuinely entertaining and letting them decide for themselves if they want to pass it on, buy into it, or just ignore it all together. The hard sell is a thing of the past (take Carcraft and Dreams as the most recent examples), and surely brands and companies who haven’t already realised that entertaining their customers is the way forward, will soon follow suit.

That’s exactly what I tried to convey two and a half years ago in my dissertation, and it’s exactly what was proven by a one minute Kentucky Fried Chicken advert at the beginning of this month. The way to a customer’s wallet is through them as a person. Engage them, communicate with them, and entertain them. Who knows, they might very well talk back.

Read more over at Whatever’s In There, Falls Out Here.

Posted in: Ciaran Watkins