Book Review: The end of Advertising by Andrew Essex

About a third of the way into this book I was wondering why am I reading it. I had only 3-4 lousy notes added to my arsenal and a lot of information seemed to be redundant and uninteresting. However, my patience has been rewarded because after this desertified region of the book came some really nice bounty.

The advertising model as we know it is changing. The author was shocked to find out in 2015, from a radio show, that there is a thing called Ad blocker. And the author was at that time the CEO of the most renowned advertising agency in the world. “Well, that’s how dinosaurs die, they never know what hits them” I thought.

Let’s see what the author thinks about how proper advertising should be done.

Great storytelling still sells:

“Interesting times, yes. And a time to be interesting. In the age of the Feed, the age of infobesity and Peak TV, one was compelled as never before to be entertaining and authentic, to tell a good story, the key to being interesting. This was something that human beings and marketers alike could agree on: the power of a good story. Now that would always be welcome; good stories were something we could never have enough of. This was the sentiment uttered by the chief marketing officer of GE, at a recent industry conference. “Nothing,” she said, “will take the place of great storytelling.” “

Don Draper would have a hard time competing nowadays with a lot of attention merchants:

“Were he toiling on Madison Avenue today, Don Draper would have a hard time navigating the complexity of the current advertising landscape. Beyond the aforementioned array of blocking technologies, advertising must now compete with, in no particular order, massive media fragmentation, mobile mass adoption, cord cutters, self-quantification, selfies, podcasts, a million apps, a zillion video games, endlessly proliferating social media platforms, the golden age of TV (made bingeworthy, as noted, by the absence of ads), the hegemonic power of texting, the chimerical pursuit of “inbox zero,” and dozens more dopamine-stimulating bits and bobs that drive the economy of unprecedented abundance that is modern life.”

The human mind constantly seeks novelty so creative approaches are still winners:

“The irony is that the Super Bowl approach actually provides a useful lesson: In a world in which we are drowning in noise, any content, whether it’s advertising or serial crime dramas, must be qualitatively superior to be appreciated, and that doesn’t always require a huge budget. The most important thing is to be excellent, interesting, authentic, or useful. To be the thing, not the thing that sells the thing. That’s fantastic news for creative people, who specialize in the stuff. Thanks to toomuchness, creativity, once exclusively the province of poets, has suddenly become a business imperative.”

Some creative advertising models, Dunkin Donuts partnered with Waze:

“Dunkin Donuts’ CMO said the company was now all about value and utility; for example, it had recently partnered with the social navigation app Waze, using location-based marketing, to offer discounts based on a traveler’s proximity to a store.”

Advertising has to add value, it has to be the thing, not the thing that sells the thing:

“Among the more pleasing by-products of the coming end of advertising is a heretical realization among some industry thinkers: the idea that for advertising to survive, or rather to thrive, it must add value to people’s lives. In a world in which lazy, superfluous, and stupid no longer cut it, advertising will have no choice but to compete as primary content, not secondary intrusion. It will become the thing, not the thing that sells the thing.”

Old, traditional advertising was quite high quality:

“In many homes, early “chromolithographic” ads torn out of magazines became the closest thing the average American family came to owning art, “the chief means of brightening a dreary visual environment,” according to Lears.”

Creative advertising from Lego. Fortunately, I didn’t saw the movie.

“This is why The Lego Movie is so significant. A brand made a brilliant, well-executed movie. The movie was a hit. The movie also happened to be an ad, one that people were willing to pay to see.”

Zappos put their logo inside the plastic trays you use to pass your shoes through security:

As I mentioned earlier in the Citi Bike story, Zappos once ingeniously put their logo inside the plastic trays you use to pass your shoes through security at the airport. They’d found virgin white space that was also contextually connected to their business, and decided that this was the ideal place to put their brand name.

The author proposes the rebuilding of dilapidated infrastructure as a creative and value adding form of advertising:

“Our roads and bridges are falling apart. Forget soda cups and brown paper bags—America’s interstates, airports, and railroad stations are the new white space. We don’t need the thousands of tiny, inconsequential ads that currently blight our transit hubs, we need a big-thinking brand to literally repave the road.”

Even though it has a slow start, there are other bits and pieces that make this book worth reading.

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