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dvertising can suck.

Yes, it’s always effective to start with a surprise—especially one that is so often true. But don’t be scared away. After all, even those of us totally committed to the ad game do often get twitchy fingers whenever confronted by another direct-sell commercial invading our TV, computer or environment. We’re human. Why watch the hard sell when you can surf over to a quality show, Web site, movie or the National Geographic Channel? We know how it should be: toward real world inspiration and quality entertainment.

Why aren’t ads more like hugs? Totally engaging. I consider myself the average impatient consumer. I like tech. I try to stay abreast. I’m as human as the next. To witness our true nature, just look at elevator buttons: The open door button is always pristine, and the close door button is always dirty and broken. We always want to go up, up, up! (Or down, down, down…) Humans want to move. We want to shake. And tech lets us do that.

But at the end of the day, I’m an old fart when compared to my kids or the average North American teenager. They move in brief intervals among TV, Web, ichat, gaming, SMS, cell calls, events—and all at the same time. Now that’s exactly the sort of multitasking I aspire for! So if you think traditional commercials bore you, well then: THINK OF THE CHILDREN!!!!

Interactivity is so much more interesting, anyway. My 4-year-old son tends to prefer Noggin the Web site over Noggin the TV channel. Personal choice. Meanwhile, his younger brother is a die-hard Web man.

In our multimedia world, people have been given the choice to press the close door button on ads that disrupt. Excellent. They also have the choice to then go seek another door toward relevant culture that enables them to engage on their own individual terms. Even better. The age of disruption is dead. But disruption can be reborn as the jump start toward surprise and delight.

I have always been immensely attracted to the idea of communication being a powerful merger of advertising, content, entertainment and PR … or total engagement, as we Frogs like to call it.

Talking about engagement alone as a powerful advertising force is missing the whole point. Engagement is about media. It’s about finding the consumer, wherever he or she may be, and engaging them there—on whatever level attracts them the most.

Larry Hotz, one of the best consumer researchers I’ve worked with, showed me how Dolce & Gabbana and Chanel recently outperformed other luxury brands—not because they outspent them in ads, but because they augmented their traditional ads with events and content that garnered invaluable editorial. For example, the Chanel exhibition at the Met was written about in such premium lifestyle journals as US, People and even Vanity Fair, and such quality editorial led to quality word-of-mouth and general buzz—all worth much more than their weight in making-sales gold.

But now that you’ve got them and engaged them, what the hell are you going to do with them? Advertise to these poor consumers? And risk them still reaching for that close button?

Sadly, that’s exactly what most advertisers are still doing. Yes, engagement has already had its day. It’s gotten too bogged down being about integrating disciplines—and how well an agency can pull all the different media together—rather than being about the consumer, who, by the way, doesn’t distinguish between an ad about a brand and an editorial about a brand.

The future of marketing communication will be more about Culture Connection: not only identifying cultural trends, but also creating new ones. It’s about being a catalyst for cultures on the rise and helping shape their spaces. It’s about sparking cultural movements for brands. Combining brand marketing, the populist power of grassroots movements and good old-fashioned inspired ideas, we can propel brands into the cultural conversation. With cultural movements, it pays to focus on the right people. It pays to touch a nerve with your community of fans by being relevant. It pays to enable participation. There are many excellent examples of how cultural movements have affected massive numbers of people. Take Target’s “Design For All.” Take what Karl Rove did in the last election, for example. Or Punk. Or Hip-hop. Or the International Vampire Meetup phenomenon.

Advertisers should ask for cultural movements, not advertising. Cultural Connection has become Frog religion, and in the process we’ve been able to connect on a powerful and emotional level with people. With a toy brand called Mega—one of the world’s fastest-growing toy companies—we’re about to launch a cultural movement to bring creativity back into childhood. A movement against the increasingly over-structured, over-scheduled, technology-dependent nature of childhood today—called Creativity to the Rescue.

Similarly, we provide a wide array of street culture exposure on, which we developed in close cooperation with MSN for Sprite.

Cultural Connectivity—which in turn connects us to the consumer—is the final step in the evolutionary process, from Inter- ruption to Engagement to Cultural Connectivity. In short, the jump from dinosaur to Frog mentality.

It’s just a matter of making that mental leap from advertising to culture (where the real world and entertainment meet). From mere engagement to total connection. From strategic planners to urban culturologists.

Because with a change in culture on their hands, advertisers can profit. In other words, it’ll be hugs all around.

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