From Fashion to Gaming: What’s Hot for ’08

NEW YORK In a world where Tay Zonday is the best thing to happen to Dr Pepper since its 1970s’ “Be a Pepper” campaign, it can be hard to predict which ads consumers will like and which they’ll hate. But knowing which trends will take off can help guide you in the right direction. Some have yet to gel, while others—those featured in our “10 Trends of 2007” [Adweek, Dec. 17]—we predict will get even stronger. The idea of authenticity, from a brand being true to its roots to companies making claims they can actually back up, will continue to resonate. Handmade-, not just homemade-, looking ads will go beyond amateurish user-gen videos to mashups of all forms and stripes. Visually, expect your outlook, if not your work, to be influenced by BRIC, as creative types turn to these for inspiration. And keep an eye on the fast-growing, and changing, world of video gaming, as companies design more casual games than ever for demos young and old, opening up new types of in-game advertising, such as innovative sponsorships and mobile tie-ins. Here, a look at what to expect, with input from experts from a variety of fields both in and outside advertising.

Authenticity

We’ll pretend telling the truth never went out of style, much less question whether it was ever actually in, and say that “authenticity” as well as “transparency,” undoubtedly big in 2007, will be even bigger catchwords in 2008.

“Gone are the days of kind of made-up shit and attention for attention’s sake,” says Chuck McBride, ecd, at San Francisco-based Cutwater. “Right now we’re looking at clients that need something that reinforces what they are and not something that creates something they’re not.”

This year saw a slew of creative that focused on being real, ranging from Dove’s heralded “Evolution” ad to spots that used real or simulated home-video footage to convey genuine, down-home values, such as the DraftFCB spot for Oreo, “Cat Jingle,” in which a cat seems to knock an Oreo into a bowl of milk.

Next year, among other things, marketers will be more careful about the facts that support the ads. Antonio Navas, worldwide cd at Ogilvy & Mather in New York, says marketers won’t have much choice. “You cannot hide,” he notes, “because people are the critics.”

We’ll see this play out in the fast-food category, say experts, which, as the world’s population gets heavier, has been under increasing pressure to be open about its ingredients. (The World Health Organization projects that in 2005, the latest figures available, 400 million adults were obese and that number is expected to jump to 700 million by 2015.)

“You’re going to find the food industry having to take a serious look at itself with regard to statements they’re making to consumers,” says Dean Crutchfield, svp of marketing at Wolff Olins in New York, which will work on a project related to “globesity” in 2008.

Consumers will also be taking a closer look at potential “greenwashing.” Congratulate, or blame, Al Gore, but companies like Shell, say—which was lambasted this year for its ad showing flowers blowing from a refinery chimney—may not get away with messages they can’t back up with facts.

“Next year we’ll see whether the greening of the culture, particularly in corporate marketing … is anything more than a facade,” says Steve Wax, partner and chief narratologist at Campfire in New York. If the messages are not accurate, he predicts, “there will be big a backlash that will affect the ad world.” Agencies, he says, will then be in the position of weighing whether a potential marketer can actually deliver on its green promises.

Faux Traditionalism

Expect to see more mixing of tradition and irony in the design world, as well as in advertising—at least, in humorous ads not striving for authenticity.

“It started a few years ago [in design when you’d] walk into a minimalist space and there would be a chandelier,” says Karrie Jacobs, author of The Perfect $100,000 House and the founding editor-in-chief of Dwell. “It seems like a moment when slightly knowing faux traditionalism is going to be the thing as opposed to modern minimalism.” Jacobs points to places such as Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson’s Bowery Hotel in New York as an example. “It’s got club chairs, hunting trophies and kind of a wink,” she says.

In advertising, the move away from sleek and minimal, say several creative directors, will be a way to break through a market saturated in mass tech items like the iPhone and consumers who fast-forward through commercials.

Expect, then, more ads along the lines of Old Spice’s “Hungry Like the Bruce” from Wieden + Kennedy—in which Bruce Campbell plays the piano in a room full of hunting trophies while crooning Duran Duran’s 1980s hit “Hungry Like the Wolf” to a bevy of beauties—and the Dos Equis spots from Euro RSCG starring “the World’s Most Interesting Man,” who bench presses nurses and wrestles bears in his spare time.

Handmade Goods

A new focus on handmade goods, as seen by the rise of sites like etsy.com—which buys and sells hand-crafted objects—to a surge in homemade imports from places like Africa, where crafts are providing sustainable livelihoods for a growing number of women, is being reflected in everything from furniture design to advertising.

“Consumers are interested in investing in furniture with individuality and personality,” says Amy Ilias, art director for ABC Home, headquartered in New York. “It has to do with the interest in sustainability, where people are making conscious choices.”

In advertising, say some creative directors, this trend will be seen in ads that ape a handmade style, such as the recent Bronx Zoo campaign from Deutsch, New York, that looks like a watercolor painting come to life.

“Advertising is getting back to the craft of the business we’re in: writing and visual communications,” says Peter Nicholson, partner and CCO at Deutsch. “Everyone’s sensing that there’s borderline visual pollution, so we’re moving back to the craft and organic feel of what we do.”

Expect as well more mash-ups, including of familiar icons. “The attitude towards things is going to become looser,” says Wolff Olins’ Crutchfield. For instance, “logos are going to work with other logos and they are going to be more open and less monolithic protectionist,” such as the London 2012 Olympic symbol the firm designed to contain several icons at once.

BRIC Fashions

The fashion world will be looking to the BRIC countries in 2008.

“We’re hearing that [many of] our designers are interested in expanding there,” says Fern Mallis, vp of IMG Fashion, which puts on Mercedes Fashion Week in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Berlin.

This means creatives will be keeping an eye on those regions for fashions and trends that could be appropriated into their work.

“There’s a Western curiosity with … how they’re spinning Western civilization back into their own,” says Deutsch’s Nicholson.

Casual Gaming

Video-game controllers bristle with a confusing amalgam of different-size buttons, triggers and joysticks. While this suits the hard-core gamer, it’s a turnoff to the more casual player. In 2008, however, controls will look and feel simpler. The reason: A new emphasis on demographics outside men in their 20s and early 30s, who currently make up the majority of game players.

Matthew Ammirati, president of Ammirati in New York, which has worked with video-game clients such as Marc Ecko and Atari, says that “user-friendly, non-hard-core gaming platforms such as the [Nintendo] Wii [are] going to open up a new market of gamers.”

Laurent Detoc, president of game maker Ubisoft, North America, says the company has several casual games about to launch. He points to their upcoming Tom Clancy “End Wars” game, which can be controlled solely using the gamer’s voice, and the recently released “Imagine Fashion Designer,” a title aimed at tween girls that let’s them run a fashion business using a touch screen and relatively simple instructions.

“If we do a good enough job, it will go beyond gamers,” Detoc says.

More gamers, of course, equals more eyeballs for advertisers. And in-game advertising has been projected to grow from $56 million in 2005 to between $732 million and $1.8 billion in 2010, depending on which analyst’s projections are used.

With different demographics playing video games, agencies will have to evaluate whether the current methods of in-game advertising—primarily billboards and product placement—are as effective. Ammirati says to look for “more out-of-game sponsorships [such as live events and contests] with other partners to promote their products. We’re also going to see more mobile tie-ins.”

Branded Entertainment

In 2008, online videos, Webisodes and other potential branded-entertainment productions are going to look better than ever, giving advertisers more sophisticated platforms in which to advertise.

Morgan Spurlock, producer of the new film What Would Jesus Buy?, says he thinks an increasing number of online “film/video creations [will] actually become commercially viable. The threshold for turning short-form content into a sustainable business model will finally become a reality.”

Expect more Internet people like Tay Zonday, then—whose popular, amateurish YouTube video propelled him into the professionally produced Cherry Chocolate Diet Dr Pepper video—to find mainstream stardom.

“The biggest thing I see is more money in [online] production and a lot more interactivity,” says Miles Beckett, one of the creators of “Lonelygirl15” and “KateModern,” two online serials. “Film and TV are moving online. Rather than user-generated content being separate from the professional world, it will be about the merging of the two worlds.”

The uptick in production values means consumers will sit tight for longer online videos, like they’re doing for Axe’s “Gamekillers,” one of many shows that are seen not only on MTV, but also MTV’s Web site. The show is 30-minutes long on-air and about 23 minutes on the Web. (Nielsen//NetRatings says it does not track viewership for “Gamekillers,” and MTV did not return calls about the show’s ratings.)

And sites such as the recently launched hulu.com, still in beta, and joost.com, which launched officially in May, are expected to grow in popularity, thanks to their offerings of full-length shows with fewer commercials than network TV.

Advertisers will also be looking, of course, towards making branded-entertainment inroads on people’s cell phones.

“In the simplest format, it’s adding a short code to a TV spot,” says Paran Johar, managing director at MRM, Los Angeles. “Ten years ago, Web site URLs weren’t ubiquitous. Now you’d be hard-pressed to not see one in a spot.”