6 Second Ads and the “Death of Advertising”

More and more recently I’ve seen advertising vets compelled to speak out on the “death” of our industry. 

They all point their fingers at one specific reason: short form, performance advertising.

They believe that short-form content and digital media buying have created an industry of tight turn arounds, smaller budgets, and a focus on ROI and the “numbers.” *shudders in fear*

And they’re right.

They think these shifts have led to lack of brand voice, movement towards low brow performance creative, a focus on quantity over quality, and gone are the days of compelling brand story telling.

That’s where they are wrong.

TV had the unbelievable luxury of forcing its audience to watch ads. The ads that were great in the heyday of TV changed culture as we knew it. They moved people. They made people care about the biggest brands in the world. They had compelling stories and high production quality. The good ones even felt like short movies.

But nothing stays the same.

The internet rose to be the primary source of entertainment, information, and communication. It taught us advertisers the most important, gut-punching lesson that would make us rethink everything.

Given the option, most people would rather skip even the greatest TV ad. No one likes ads.

Especially when it interrupts their frantic, short attention fueled digital content. We have all of the music, TV shows, and movies ever made at our fingertips. No one is going to let an ad get in their way. As the internet and social media surpassed TV, we saw a massive shift in media buying was happening. Data analytics and audience targeting was getting sophisticated enough to track niche interests,put together unique audiences to serve up different messaging based on a person’s point in a consumer journey.

Enter the wave of performance advertising.

Using click bait creative and advanced targeting to hack the “numbers” *shudders* for ROI. Forgoing brand voice and strategy completely. Building more clicks and purchases with no long term brand voice. Utilizing targeting so sophisticated, people think their phones are listening to them.

Even I can admit, we swung the pendulum too far. But we did learn another lesson.

No one likes ads but everyone likes content that speaks to their likes, aesthetics, and interests. Creative requires different messaging for different audiences. There is no one-size-fits-all anymore. Whereas once you needed to plan 1-2 TV commercials a year; Now you have to think about MONTHS of creative. Multiple pieces that speak to a variety of audiences at different stages in the consumer journey.

There’s still a story. It just may not be the story you’re used to. (And yes, you need to care about performance-based targeting to accompany your brand creative. They need to speak to each other.) I’ve only been in this industry for a short time and it irks me that the OG creatives I admire most believe the changes that bring new advertising to life are its “death”.  What they fail to realize is the internet and social media offer the biggest opportunity for how brands communicate. We can tailor our messages, speak more directly to people’s interests, and tell even more stories. Best of all, we can create stronger, long-lasting relationships with consumers. 

And isn’t that what this industry is all about?

Corey Way is a Cannes Lion-winning designer, and creative director of Toronto based agency Abacus.

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This article originally appeared in ‘The Message’, April 29th, 2020, in an edited form.