“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic cockroach.”
—Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
I was thinking about the first sentence in Kafka’s novella the other day. Many of us advertising veterans are having uneasy, Samsa-like dreams of our own.
Our fear is that we’re a waking up as dinosaurs in an industry that’s been radically transformed in the last few years.
In the not too distant past, even a modest media budget was an assurance that we’d reach our “target audience” with a “brand message” through the trusty mass media of broadcast television, drive time radio and daily newspapers.
Our job was to craft clever ads that would bust through the clutter, attract attention and succeed through repetition. We interrupted programming that people wanted in order to force-feed them something they grudgingly tolerated—our ads. It worked because the consumer was a prisoner of mass media.
That was then. But that ain’t now.
Advertising is no longer a series of controlled messages tidily distributed to passive masses. Not only do consumers control when and how they receive information from a brand, they are creating their own brand content. (Exhibit A: Some ten million people have watched “United Breaks Guitars” on YouTube.)
The traditional marketing campaign—a one way message pushed out to a defined audience for a limited time period—is less relevant in a rapidly moving, real-time, interactive world. Today, progressive marketers are creating brand platforms: open-ended, ongoing, curated conversations with customers and prospects in all media and beyond media.
A platform extends beyond the walled garden of the marketing department into all areas of the organization—sales, R&D, HR, customer service. A platform captures the soul of a brand and presents it as a robust, interactive experience. It’s the Pepsi Refresh Project or IBM Smarter Planet.
Our agency is restructuring so that we can better succeed at painting these sort of big canvases. We’re getting there–having launched brand platforms for LifeWise Health Plan (“Boringly Good“), Symetra Financial (“Don’t Fear 65“) and the Seattle Aquarium (“Let Leonard In“).
Here’s the catch: platforms are hard. They take time. They require far more effort than a traditional campaign because they demand orchestration of multiple disciplines—art, copy, public relations, event marketing, digital programming, and more.
But dinosaurs be warned: Platforms are the future, and the future is now.