Alive And Kicking

Advertising is dead. Booga booga! Everywhere we turn, we hear these words. (Not the “Booga booga!” part, thank God. That was just for effect.) I guess it suits the nontraditional communications companies to tout this theory. But I’ve said this until I’m blue in the face: Advertising isn’t dying. It’s being reborn. If anything, what is dying is the ability to buy market share by outspending your competition with mind-numbing, irrelevant sales propositions.

The premise goes something like this: People don’t like advertising; therefore, they will tune it out. And because they now have so many tools, they are fleeing advertising in droves.

The truth is, consumers have always been in control. Now it’s just easier for them to turn you off. Which isn’t to say they’re not engaged. In fact, they’re engaged in a big way—in such a big way that they might reject you for any number of sins: blathering on, telling untruths, not listening to them, wasting their time, selling products that don’t make sense. Active disengagement can come from engaged consumers just as easily as record sales growth can.

Brands that understand this have a big future. Brands that don’t might have a future, if they’re lucky or have very deep pockets.

Prognosticators see media fragmentation as a stumbling block to reaching consumers, but really, there are just a lot more choices, and it’s actually easier in some ways to reach a specific target.

And though the scientists in our business don’t want to admit it, the real issues are the quality and relevance of the message.

I’d like to put forward the idea that you can look at the award shows and see all the proof you need as to the health of the business. After all, award shows are a sort of litmus test of how things are going, what work is being done, which agencies are strong.

Since I’m the president of The One Club, I’ll use The One Show as an example. Though have you noticed that pretty much the same work is winning at The One Show now that’s winning at the Effies? There’s a pretty important point, eh?

There were more than 18,000 entries from 34 countries in The One Show this year. That’s up 25 percent over last year. So there was probably a lot more work done this year. And the business is converging in all sorts of interesting ways. For one thing, because of the real ascension of interactive and integrated thinking, we held The One Show and The One Show Interactive on the same night, at the same time, at the same venue, across the hall from each other.

It’s also fascinating to look at the two Best of Show winners. At The One Show, you have Honda U.K.’s “Grrr” spot, by Wieden + Kennedy. This is one of those spots heard around the world, prompted by way more than just the media buy. But you may not know that there is also a strong, very immersive extension of the campaign online.

Best of Show at The One Show Interactive was Burger King’s “Subservient Chicken,” by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, a great piece of interactive for many reasons but also part of a much bigger idea. Is this an online idea or the online component of a great advertising idea? Of course, it’s both.

These are both ideas that rocked the world to some degree. The brands are two of the most well known in the world. Honda is setting sales records in the U.K. And while Burger King is as mass as you get, look at how they’re communicating with the world. I’ve even heard that the once-struggling brand has seen 13 straight months of same-store sales growth since the new campaign launched. It’s the difference great advertising can make.

I know award shows take a bit of a beating from people who say they’re narcissistic and self-aggrandizing. And while I understand the argument, it’s hard to support when you look at the successful brands in the world and their track records in the award shows. The brands that have consistently dominated the shows are the most powerful brands in the world. Again, it’s in the interests of the scientists to discredit the shows because they don’t fit their models.

But think about award shows as a giant focus group made up of really tough consumers. The judges look at thousands of campaigns. The good work stands out, just like in the real world.

Brands that consistently win understand the power of engaging and creating communities with their customers. When consumers love an ad, they seek it out, talk about it and maybe even disseminate it to their friends. They love it.

Maybe in the end, people don’t hate advertising. Maybe they just hate bad advertising.

So is advertising dying? All I know is I’m busier than ever and having twice as much fun.