Happy New Decade! Here’s One Prediction for Advertising in The Teens…

Not a list or a look back of any kind; just one prediction regarding all this industry convergence and confusion about how the advertising business we knew will evolve in the decade ahead…

#1.  The Days of Strategy Are Over.

The Age of Stories Is Upon Us.

Again.

That’s not a quote from The Lord of the Rings; that’s a truth that’s become increasingly obvious as we’ve dealt with seismic changes within both our industry and the culture as a whole.  We live in times when great masses of people can organize without organizations (good point Clay Shirky).  We live in times when recommendation drives sales more than any other factor (good business plan Zocalo Group).  We live in times when the way people can experience a brand–has never been more diverse (good luck with integration there, Bub).

Today’s reality renders the notion of a centralized advertising ‘strategy’ quaint.  The conceit that any advertiser controls their message is both dated and dangerous.  Strategies assume centralized authority which no longer exists in an empowered-public forum.  Strategies come from people with a vested interest, but these days, those people are only a part of the in-market dialogue.  Today, consumers have loud voices: socially-networked, extraordinarily powerful and digitally-amplified via Web 2.0 voices.  And their voices will be heard

All of which means that if we want to learn, we will have to unlearn–it’s not about just what we advocate, it’s about what consumers accept.  To lead we will also have to listen–not just to clients but to consumers whose voices are stronger than ever.

We will have to put aside the older ways and accept that to move forward, we will have to embrace one of the most primal and fundamental assets of our humanity: storytelling.  We will not only need to tell stories on our brands’ behalf in the future, we also must shape those stories, enhance those stories, make them more pertinent, more relevant, and more impactful to the people we want to buy our brands.  Sparking stories, guiding stories, monitoring and brightening stories–that will define the advertising business in the coming decade.

And so that will become our daily work.  Identifying the story.  Shaping the story.  Refining the story.  And most of all, spreading the story in a way that others pick up our narrative and spread it themselves.

We are no longer in the advertising business.  We are now in the oldest profession known to man: no, not that–the storytelling business. And it just may be the most antediluvian business at work today–telling stories for the entertainment and edification of others.  But at least it’s honest work.

Come to think of it, the years ahead should be a really good time.  A Happy Decade Ahead to All!

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79
Dennis Ryan says:

Great point Fred…but in an integrated world, strategies separate marketing entities since they are ‘owned.’ And since strategies eschew execution (with the exception of bullet-pointed lists), they miss the critical organizing–and often differentiating–quality of tone, where the less heady story does not.
These points aside, I do agree, the best strategies are stories, but they are rarely as concise and compelling as the Gatorade one.

PS: “”OLD ad guy”?

Old Ad Guy says:

Strategies inform stories. If the strategy is wrong, the story is wrong. What is a strategy? A story. Try it out tonight: Target: my 5 year old son. Gatorade will make you play harder, longer. Proof: Derek Jeter drinks it. End of story

Bryan says:

So spot on. Thanks for the inspiration and the future. This is the year we make contact after all, right? Authenticity is crucial. Honesty is essential. Entertainment is key. Here’s to great things for all human beings.

Paul Rand says:

How right you are, Dennis. It is all about the stories — and hopefully ones that people pick up and tell on their own about a brand.

Here’s to a great 2010 — full of good stories!

Steve Brodwolf says:

Well it’s about time.
The late Don Hewit, the creator and executive producer of 60 minutes once said that his entire approach to his craft was based on four little words.
“Tell me a story.” That mantra seemed to work quite well for him.