There is no doubt that technologies are changing the face of advertising, the question is how?
The 60th Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which took place mid June, strongly reflected the evolution in media advertising. Victoria Marchand, editor of Cominmag and www.cominmag.ch—a B2B media magazine in the French-speaking part of Switzerland—was there. In this article, she shares insights from the field.
By Victoria Marchand
The old days
Before the advent of Web 2.0, brand communication was built on a creative concept. Once the concept was found, it was duplicated across various media. The choice of support was generally decided afterwards by a media agency that received the campaign from the advertising agency. The choice was simple: television, billboard, press, direct marketing—that’s it. To reach the right target, media refining was done within those categories. The only thing left to do was to choose the right channel and the right time slot.
The new world
The development of the web tore that whole edifice down. First with search engines offering contextualized advertising, then with social networks that offer advertising space indexed to algorithms. As a result, one-way communication has lost ground to a personalized conversation. Brands have gradually been relegated to the role of receptacles where users have become the new publishers and thus masters of the game. That’s enough to scare many marketing directors who, after hesitating to jump into the hot water of Web 2.0, had no choice but to keep up with the rules of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, tumblr, and others.
In a context like this, we can’t communicate the way we did before. With a constantly expanding number of social networks, it’s no longer about applying one idea to an infinite number of formats. Now, it’s about building a story or a narrative universe that can be adapted to every media outlet. That’s how the concept of transmedia storytelling—developed in 2002 by MIT professor Henry Jenkins—emerged as the only approach capable of grasping a fragmented media universe.
“Talk to me about me…”
Let’s look at an example from the 2013 Grand Prix in the Cyber and Branded Content & Entertainment categories. Peireira & O’Dell won in both for “The Beauty Inside” a social film campaign presented by Intel and Toshiba.
How do you communicate about a computer and a microprocessor? How do you do it well? That’s the brief the San Francisco-based agency received. We all know it’s difficult to bond with objects if we don’t humanize them. In this campaign, the unifying (and humanizing) theme is a computer that becomes a different person everyday, like the millions of Toshiba owners, all unique.
“The Beauty Inside” is a social film broken up in six episodes telling the story of Alex. He is always the same inside but wakes up everyday looking like a different person. To reflect that human mosaic, the episodes were produced in part with videos from fans who, after castings through Facebook and webcam auditions, played Alex and proposed ideas for his role. A flawless co-scripted storytelling operation “inspired by Intel Inside, featuring the Toshiba Ultrabook, and starring the audience.” The results were immediate: 70 million views (website, mobile, YouTube), 97 percent YouTube approval rating, and 13.5 million Facebook interactions.
Another award in the Branded Content & Entertainment category was the campaign for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus. It started as a fake TED talk (happening in the year 2023!) and was relayed by an advertising video on Mashable where we could discover the android David 8 (10 million views). The website presented itself as a center for cognitive research on the birth of a man-machine, and the guerilla marketing operation launched on LinkedIn to recruit media influencers. The result: two billion media impressions on the website and tens of millions of views.
When reality is augmented
“If you want to change people’s opinion, don’t tell them but let them discover it for themselves.” That was the starting point for the development of McDonald’s Australia and DDB Sydney’s web app that used augmented reality to provide complete transparency on the traceability of the chain’s products. With “Track my Macca’s,” you just scan the barcode on the meal’s packaging and a host of information, videos, and games appear. It’s an opportunity to create millions of stories that are all different, but that all substantiate the brand’s intentions.
While some advertisers thought that the web was going to kill advertising, the new tools actually offer designers an endless supply of solutions. But one question remains as crucial as ever: do the millions of views lead to millions of sales? In other words, does effectiveness increase with the number of tools? Does transmedia make campaigns more expensive, even if it increases the visibility and notoriety of a brand?
Has nothing changed since Rockefeller considered throwing half of his communications budget out the window each time he launched a new advertising campaign? No, things have changed. Web tools make it possible to track the evolution of sales. With time, the scope of communication techniques will diminish and they will become more and more effective.