Convergence + The Future = Voltron

By Matt Van Hoven 

I was talking to a friend last night about the biz and despite the jack and cokes that were flowing through me I think we made some rational statements about the future, specifically how screwed up it is that communication in general has become so siloed none of us can tell we’re standing within feet of one another. And that we all have the same mission: get butts in seats, sell something, deliver a message, create an emotional bond et al. I’ve never taken an advertising lesson so if this sounds redundant, it’s supposed to &#151 this stuff is important. But more than that it’s blatantly obvious but I’m going to say it anyway.

So recently someone asked me what is the future of advertising and I said convergence. He said, well what does that mean and I said it’s convergence, dude, delivering a message through pretty much every platform and not calling it advertising or PR but just admitting that it’s communication and nothing else. It’s not PR + Advertising + Journalism + Research, it’s all of those things with none of the bad memories in one big supergenius robot called Voltron. The sum of many parts.


Note: Advertising, as a name for this industry, is a meaningless moniker created back in the day to differentiate the business from the next closest thing &#151 which was probably journalism. It will probably be called advertising forever but come on, it’s real name is communication and by definition it is “an ongoing, dynamic process between an infinite number of variables with no beginning, middle or end.” &#151 Ken Ksobiech. Bottom line &#151 the message has to be unified under one unit consisting of linear but integrated media.

And today “advertising” is no longer valuable except that people go, “oh, you’re in advertising…that shit doesn’t work on me but I love those Burger King ads.” Or whatever.

Anyway back to the future: it’s undoubtedly a mixture of everything that’s out there but more like the 1980s hit cartoon Voltron which was this big badass robot that would “form” only when shit got really bad. Voltron is composed of 5 really cool transformer-like robots which are piloted by people we were supposed to like and want to be like. Today communication is really the same thing, except it’s probably less like a hero and more like a pain in the ass that the majority of America and the world at large would like to see dead.

So what’s the answer? Well lots of you know this already but I think it’s time to stop over-thinking this stuff and just focus on the end game &#151 selling shit. The agency model doesn’t work and Coke just announced their plans to not pay you if your work doesn’t drive sales. Eh hem, Crispin (Burger King’s sales are down).

David Ogilvy did something similar back in the day when he changed O&M from a commission system to a fee-based system. Everyone was pissed at him but he did it to legitimize the business &#151 take it out of the “sales” realm and make it more like law or dentistry.

But now we need another upgrade and if the kids at Gawker get paid more for higher traffic stories, why the hell shouldn’t you? The perception of value-add (aka when there’s not an uptick in sales but your account guy tells the client, “well we got your name out there”) is what’s destroying this business and it basically perpetuates the bad work we keep seeing day after day.

So if you’ve got the balls step it up and start promising ROI. You’ll be ahead of the pack if it works and furthermore it will cause you to face your failures in a more real way &#151 ie you don’t get paid. But look if I go out to eat and the food sucks, I’m not paying (well, in theory &#151 I don’t have a discerning pallet and try not to be a dick most of the time).

More: “LATimes: GM’s Woes Could Harm “Transformers 2” Revs. Right.