What a difference a decade makes – 87,600 little hours.
When I first started out in advertising, the process of producing an ad was clearly defined. Working with the strategy team, we were given the message a client wanted to communicate and the channel in which the media dollars were being spent. Equipped with these two parameters, we then went forth and created something.
This equation of ‘message + channel = idea’ had served our industry since its infancy. But today, none of that matters.
Many brands have moved on from the simple equation of picking a channel and splashing their messaging over it. Today brands are taking a stand. Because people like brands they feel more connected to. Paid media alone will no longer hold a brand together, cut-through in our complex world or, for that matter, increase sales. Brands need big, simple brand ideas that connect to people.
In today’s hyper-connected world, the best creative ideas go beyond the classic concept of ‘matching luggage’. They are able to leverage each consumer touchpoint for their own strengths and create an emotion, be useful, entertain and help a brand form a strong stance on a relevant issue.
My point is this: 10 years is a lifetime in advertising. In 2019, it feels like boundaries are being pushed every day. Some of these attempts fail, some stand firm and some even twist around on themselves, warping to reveal opportunities never previously thought possible. But it is only the act of pushing boundaries that lead to great results for brands.
Over the past few weeks, the internet and its sprawling social media arms have been awash with the #10YearChallenge - a challenge in which users typically compare a grainy selfie from a decade ago to a shiny new high-definition snap captured today to see how much (or how little) has changed.
Operating without the selection bias of your Facebook-friendly Auntie Julie when poring through the dusty archives of her MySpace/Friends Reunited profile to find photographic evidence of her 10 year ‘glow up’, I think it’s revealing to look at a #10YearChallenge for some brands and assess how their advertising has changed.
Sweden went from telling us what we can do in Sweden to confidently listing the entire country on Airbnb. The brand went from the messaging of ‘consider visiting us - this is what you can do in Sweden’, to promoting a broader idea about what Sweden stands for and who Swedish people are, helping create a strong sense of the Swedish experience for audiences.
Compare and constrast the approaches.
This is Sweden (old)
The Swedish Number / Sweden Airbnb (new)
When comparing Ariel’s latest ‘Share the Load’ campaign to its washing powder TV spot from 2009, it’s clear to see Ariel has taken a stand. Ariel has shifted from a stereotypical portrayal of a mother washing her child’s clothes to taking a stance on gender equality and the roles at home, making a bold statement in India and helping liberate women from archaic societal expectations.
2009 Washing Powder Ad (old)
Libresse has not only evolved as a brand but has smashed the tropes of its category entirely. Looking back on its advertising from 2009, it’s clear to see how the brand was once limited and constrained by the taboos and perceptions it challenged so boldly (and successfully) in its latest work.
Libresse Bodyform (old)
Blood Normal (new)
One of the most notable shifts in advertising style comes from Lynx. Featuring an array of spear-bearing, scantily clad ‘cavewomen’ chasing after a male protagonist, it’s almost hard to believe that this TV spot from Lynx is only 10 years old. Compared to the stance of the brand today, the attitudes expressed seem as Neolithic as the advert’s setting.
Over the last 10 years, Lynx has shifted its brand away from the ‘Lynx will get you girls’ concept to championing modern masculinity - as with their ‘Is It Okay For Guys’ campaign.
Lynx Billions (old)
Lynx - Is it okay for guys (new)
This 2008 spot from Lloyds follows an animated woman eating an everlasting ice cream around an animated town, as a narrator muses, “Wouldn’t it be nice if good things didn’t have to end? With vantage on your current account from Lloyds…”
In 2018’s award-winning #GetTheInsideOut spot, Lloyds chose instead to feature a mixture of real people and celebrities opening up on non-visible health issues. No music, no cartoon-style characters, no narrator informing audiences about Lloyd’s current account offers. A big shift that had an equally big impact.
Ice Cream (old)
Get the inside out (new)
“Fries is something we hadn’t been a leader in, in the past”, said Ken Calwell, CMO at Wendy’s, when outlining the vision behind the brand’s latest ad spot to the New York Times 10 years ago, as it launched its latest french fry focused campaign,
What is Wendy’s doing 10 years later? They’re dropping entire mixtapes on Twitter. We Beefin? (featuring an outstanding homage to Biggie Smalls’ Ready To Die album artwork) pulls no punches as the brand savagely disses competitors including McDonald's, Burger King and Wingstop, gaining huge traction on social media and consequent pick up in the mainstream press. Quite a shift away from focusing a marketing strategy on new fries.
These examples show how, across any industry, marketing should no longer be treated as an isolated function - when done right, it can form the very essence of a business or brand. As Wendy’s illustrates, modern advertising needs to answer the ‘what’s in it for me’ for the consumer, and not the brand itself.
However, brands must remember that jumping on someone else’s bandwagon will be called out. This means brands need to be genuine; to play a role in the lives of real people. From traditional marketing to customer service, to product innovation - advertising and marketing are more entwined in these decisions than ever before. And I hope it won’t take another 10 years for brands to realise this.
Harsh Kapadia is an executive creative director at VMLY&R