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A recalibration of quality over quantity (or, why should I give a shit?)

In the latest of a series of predictions on the year ahead, Matt Steward, managing director at DigitasLBi, shares his observations on bland, meaningless advertising.

I was going to do my piece on the rise of messaging apps as the trend that shapes the industry over the next year. Seriously, messaging apps will be the new social media. More people experienced the MTV VMAs on Snapchat than on any of their multiple broadcast channels. Facebook’s Messenger is the big play for the company next year. It’s an exciting playground for those brands that do it with relevance and impact.

And then I had a beer with my brother who doesn’t work in our industry, and cares not about the concept of ‘content strategy’ or ‘real-time marketing’. He likes things that help fix a problem, make things better or entertain him. And the only brands he gives a shit about are those who create things he gives a shit about.

And there’s the rub.

We create so much stuff.

But so much of it washes over the public; noise rather than music.

Filling every space and moment with branded comms and experiences; hosing communities with National Dragon Appreciation Day (16 January), amusing doughnut jokes and the like.

There is a better way.

My trend for 2016 is quality over quantity.

In keeping with the narrative arc of The Muppets’ Christmas Carol, let’s dwell on the bad before we resolve it with the good.

The UK ad market is worth in excess of £18bn annually, yet only 11 per cent of this tide of work is noticed, and only four per cent positively. Look out to the US, and adblockers have been responsible for eliminating over £20bn dollars worth of online advertising in 2015.

This isn’t because people dislike advertising per se, but because they dislike advertising that is bland and distracts them from the content they like rather than supplementing or improving on it.

In the chase to be always-on, relevance is being bypassed.

The flipside can be beautiful, and the best work defines popular culture rather than follows it and creates tangible, positive change. And that’s why we all got into this business.

So to the positive; doing a few things can make a real difference:

Know your purpose

Brand purpose is all. Know why you do what you do. This should inform what you do produce and (just as importantly), what you don’t.

Be useful or be entertaining

Are you helping fix a problem, or creating something that is genuinely engaging? If not, what value are you creating?

Don’t just be where your audience are, but be there when it’s right

Just because I’m walking in a park with my kids, it doesn’t mean that’s a good time to bother me. This is where data can be so powerful. Smart, insightful data provides a picture of when not to contact me, as well as when to hit me up. Smarter data isn’t about being able to get to me more often, but more meaningfully.

Technology as a means to an end, not the end itself

Technology is brilliant, and can create disruptive, playful, immersive experiences. Just remember to have an idea and audience, and that tech is the enabler, not the idea.

Take a risk

If it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, it probably isn’t going to challenge the status quo.

And if all else fails, ask yourself – why should anybody give a shit?

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