There has been an increase in the numbers of people watching shows and events that are broadcast live, rather than time-shifted, in the social media era – and advertisers need to consider including social dimensions to their messages.
There’s an old joke in advertising:
“How many copywriters does it take to change a light bulb?”
Punchline: “I’m not fucking changing anything!”
Creative people can be prima donnas. Imagine crafting a beautiful, crisp, clean layout – the kind of brutal simplicity that Mies van der Rohe would have appreciated. Minimal, modern perfection. Clear your mantelpiece – make space for the awards that will inevitably flow. The suit comes back to the agency from presenting it to the client.
“She loves it. Asked me to tell you that you are geniuses.” So far so good. “Just add in the 0800 number and the URL, and we’re home and hosed.”
Don’t worry, after a short stay in the hospital, the suit recovered fully.
There will always be tension between the crafting of ads and the seeking a measurable business return on the investment. Most major agencies still seek to differentiate them selves with the war-cry, ‘It’s all about the work!’ The irony of the fact that each staking a claim to the same territory is hardly differentiation at all is a story for another time.
What I am interested in exploring here is the inclusion of more elements into the creation of television commercials that are sure to cause conniptions amongst advertising purists, sitting cross-legged and waiting for the muse to visit.
Television is undergoing a renaissance. In the social media era there has been an increase in the numbers of people watching shows and events that are broadcast live, rather than time- shifted. A significant amount of the chatter on Twitter occurs around television content. The first time this struck me was during the broadcast of the New Zealand version of The Apprentice. I was exchanging opinions with other viewers around the country – and even participants in the show (though, try as I might, it was impossible to winkle out spoilers). The simple use of a hashtag and Twitter’s search function means you are able to filter conversations around a topic.
Broadcasters have picked up on the trend and often display hashtags during their shows to stimulate and guide the conversation. Audience engagement is dramatically increased and a new channel is opened at no significant cost. Twitter activity increases 2-10 times when a hashtag is displayed on-screen.
Advertisers need to consider including social dimensions to their messages. We don’t live in a hermetically sealed world anymore – ‘love my ad, love my product’ barely scrapes the surface of possibility for engagement and loyalty.
The relatively high cost of airtime and the proliferation of smart phones make other simple technological devices like QR codes invaluable to put the information consumers need to make buying decisions literally into their hands.
People can connect with brands and associate with others who share their interests and problems, and all at a marginal cost, with significant benefits (if used thoughtfully).
Sure, hashtags, URLs and QR codes take time and real estate on the screen. They may not be appropriate for every product or every message. But the back channels are just sitting there and savvy marketers will take the opportunity to connect and engage, leveraging the valuable investment they have already chosen to make by advertising on television.
There is, of course, a variation on the theme I started with:
“How many art directors does it take to change a light bulb?”
Punchline: “Does it have to be a lightbulb?”
Now that’s the kind of creative thinking I like.
David MacGregor is executive creative director of MacGregor Media and a co-founder of Idealog. Follow him on Twitter @joegreenz.