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The Only Constant for the Ad Industry is Change

February 8, 2011

This is a guest post by Nicole Price Fasig, Content Strategist at JWT

The Super Bowl ads sucked this year. This was the overarching theme of this afternoon’s Social Media Week panel “Participation, Aggregation, and Criticism in the Digital Age.” The spots were the same as every other year, and that just might be a product of the insularity of the industry, said Fast Company senior writer Danielle Sacks. “As an industry junkie, sometimes you get caught up and it’s hard to know what people are actually watching” (An interesting side note about my team’s relationship with Sacks: She penned Fast Company’s feature on The Future of Advertising saying traditional agencies just can’t keep up the innovation of digital boutiques in this day and age. My colleague Jim rebutted in a column on AdWeek saying “digital is at the heart of what we do.”).


So how do you get around this blind spot? Each panelist had a different idea. Jay Rosen, a press critic, writer and journalism professor at NYU, said it’s as simple as the end of traditional models. Instead of creating a message that is intended to appeal to a wide audience, the Internet offers that ability to narrow the message through user data and social channels. “It’s the elimination of that inherent inefficiency that I think is transforming advertising,” he said.

On the flip side, Jamal Henderson, brand manager for PepsiCo, suggested that if you want to appeal to a mass audience (and with a brand as all-inclusive as Pepsi, he says you don’t have a choice), you have to make them co-creators throughout the process. That means posting ad trailers on YouTube and watching views, comments, and social sharing. It also means soliciting user-generated content and taking full advantage of social platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

Jonah Peretti, Founder of BuzzFeed, opened the topic of social sharing, saying advertisers need to not only put out creative, but also track and tweak it constantly. “Nowadays, advertisers are saying, ‘Oh, we’re supposed to make interesting content that people want to share?’” No surprise, engagement is the name of the game.

While I’m very familiar with many of these arguments—we utilize a few of them in our brand journalism practice here at JWT—there was one surprising point I really enjoyed. Being students of new media, Peretti said that over at BuzzFeed, they’re also looking back to the past.

When has advertising—and media in general—not been in flux? If it’s not the Internet, it’s the coming of radio, or TV, any other “new media” that shook up the paradigms of mass media. And what were advertising execs discovering 50 years ago? Comic books. That’s right, back in the day executives were big fans, and comic books were a bold new frontier. The ”gamification of the ‘60s,” perhaps?

So which is it: Bold new world for advertisers, or the same state of flux the industry has always been in? Or both?

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