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What’s the point of traditional advertising in 2018?

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Creativepool Creative Debates are the tonic to the endless one-way talks that we have an abundance of in our sector. We teamed up with Dare during Cannes Lions 2018 to tackle a controversial question, ‘What’s the point of traditional advertising in 2018?’

With every new generation of consumers, traditional advertising loses its grip. The concept of ATL doesn’t appeal to them as much as, say, their favourite influencer recommending a certain type of shoe; or a brand they’ve seen as they flick through Instagram.

Even with an older demographic, does traditional advertising hold the same weight when, in 2018, there’s just more of everything. It’s never been harder to stand out from the crowd - surely targeting people would ensure a higher success rate?

The resurgence of vinyl has proven that people cling to things that are ‘old’. Not that traditional advertising is ‘old’, as such, but its back-to-basics methods can be a breath of fresh air in a world of dodgy personalised emails.

Our Debaters:

Arguing FOR traditional advertising:

Ben Long, Creative Director at Dare
Eric Zundic, Chief Strategy Officer at DDB North America
Tobias Wacker, Creative Director at Hasan & Partners

Arguing AGAINST traditional advertising:

Roz Thomas, Head of Experiential Planning at Dare
Harriet Butterfield, Client Manager at The Honey Partnership
Jon Burkhart, Founder & CEO at TBC Global

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What do the panellists think?

Ben Long, Creative Director at Dare (FOR)

“I still see no better way of reaching a mass audience than the traditional hero campaign. My son obviously doesn’t understand scheduled TV - he understands Netflix and Amazon. He sees a button on the screen and knows that’s how he can get what he wants. But if he does watch scheduled tv with his parents, the advertising gets him. For example, he saw that Action Man ad by Mother for MoneySuperMarket and loved it, repeating it, though he has no interest in car insurance or getting a better deal on his car insurance. That’s what its all about, that’s why traditional matters. For me, that hasn’t changed and it won’t change. A screen is still a screen, whether its a TV or in the palm of your hands. Though we do have to remember that advertising is no longer a fixed medium, it's constantly moving and it’s also interactive. You have to think about the interactive journey a bit more but it’s still invariably the traditional and it’s certainly here to stay."

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Roz Thomas, Head of Experiential at Dare (AGAINST)

"Traditional advertising, especially TV, still does very well as it still provides us with those intense moments that create memories, and memories make decisions. But given it’s the ending of an experience that defines our memories, it’s no longer enough.

In the past, traditional ads have been created somewhat in isolation from the rest of the advertising mix, occupying a kind of top spot, a hero part of the campaign, seen as the main item, so a lot of fame-seeking creative teams are working on these campaigns. You can see why - your audience didn’t have a choice in the matter and they just have to go along with it, at the mercy of the advertisers. However, from 2012-2017, 18-24-year-olds TV viewing times dropped by ten hours a week. The fact is, you can no longer interrupt what people are doing and grab someones attention in those formats or in the new ones.

Traditional is holding much less sway and we are in much more control now.  Clever digital advertising has to grab your attention, inform and educate… and it can take you right through to purchase!"

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Eric Zundic, Chief Strategy Officer at DDB North America

"It is important to acknowledge the fact that just because people don’t like something, or less of it is happening, doesn't mean it doesn’t work. There are no better ways than traditional advertising to form those emotional memories and drive decision making. The issue with non-traditional digital and influencer formats is threefold.

1. The ability to seriously impact culture. If we live in a micro-targeting world, there is never an opportunity to create those explosions that result in even those who have no business having anything to do with your product still have an opinion about it. The ability to drive culture through mass media, is important cos if everyone is talking about something, even if they’re not buying the product.

2. The fallacy of recency. Non-traditional is built on the idea that everything has a click to purchase button. The fact is that is not the ways we make decisions and that's not the way many categories work. Think about impulse buys - fast food or candy - or think about those top decision purchases - automobiles and high priced electronics. With these categories are about forming opinions over time which traditional advertising continues to do a fantastic job of. The fallacy of addressability falls apart.

3. Regression to the traditional. 10 years ago, Facebook and Google came out and transformed the face of marketing. Every year though, they stand on stage and announce their products are more like traditional advertising. “Don't use us for engagement! - that’s not a real metric! - use us for awareness!”. The fact is that non-traditional, where view numbers are coming into question as influencers buy followers and the brand safety issues that have come to light, can take opportunities and turn them."

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Harriet Butterfield, Client Manager at The Honey Partnership

"Nowadays that are so many types and kinds of connected audiences, advertisers have to chop up ideas and distribute it across these new channels and use each one as an opportunity to make the work more authentic. Brands really need to use more than one agency to service these needs well. After all, that big hero idea often probably doesn't work on Twitter. Now the core of advertising is still there, you need to use the AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire and Action) model but also make it relevant for that channel. Obviously, Influencers shouldn't buy followers and brands shouldn’t use them, that’s like big technology brands sponsoring the World Cup, media buying for media buying sake."

Tobias Wacker, Creative Director at Hasan & Partners

"Ours is the only industry that would spend all this time and money flying our clients to this creative advertising festival in the sun and then discuss what the whole point of it is. A lawyer would never sit down and discuss whether they’re doing a good thing or not.

Traditional vs non-traditional isn’t the question. It should be good vs bad advertising. After all, it’s all about providing nice moments, so bad quality content on old or new formats won’t work. But now, some digital formats are broken and are being found to not to deliver, as some of you have mentioned, meaning there is a strong renaissance for mass media right now. A lot of people talk about it. New formats like social are supposed to be exciting but it is exactly like the traditional content but on a smaller square screen. It doesn't become better because you make it smaller. I think there is something very beautiful in the big mass media."

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Jon Burkhart, Founder & CEO at TBC Global

"For me, it’s all about working together, with different specialisms building eyeballs and audiences, where your people are and where you can reach them. The fact is small business can’t go on mass, but nowadays they can be scrappy and build audiences by being entertaining, useful and helpful. It’s about provocation - how are you going to slow the scroll and make sure that each touch point is taken care of? Social is great for adding a surprise moment and helping add that “they get me”, “they care” edge. All brands can, and need to, be playful and have fun!"

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Now let’s discuss.

Michael Tomes, Founder of Creativepool

"From what I’m hearing, what we’re talking about isn’t really advertising at all. People have always had rock stars, films stars, sports stars showing off their product - influencers aren’t new. What we’re talking about is that the medium has changed. Have the tools that we have available now changed so much that advertising is no longer relevant, as it was always about connecting with people, and now that connection is already there."

Eric

"The issue presumes an Amazonian future where brands aren’t needed anymore. They may happen but that’s 20-30 years out at least. The decision making processes and irrationality of the human mind will override the rationality of recommendation engines and algorithms. The new media and influencers, we’re just turning them into advertising which makes people dislike them as much as a TV commercial interrupting their TV show. It’s incumbent upon us to make work that isn’t bad. It’s the good stuff that surprises people - in any format of any media - that can unexpectedly become part of the social and cultural conversation."

Michael

"If they’re being seen. I always skip youtube videos, or I’m waiting to skip them."

Harriet

"This is why influencer marketing is much more effective as you’re choosing to follow these people and hear their opinions. The difference is its more authentic and honest way of getting your product out there rather than vying for views on Youtube within five seconds."

Eric

"It’s way more authentic when it is actually authentic and that’s often in question."

Jon

"The key is making people watch those YouTube ads with great and surprising content. There was Ikea Youtube ad with a couple kissing telling you that you can skip and you don't watch this. It made people want to watch. I think there was a four-minute average watch or something. It shows it can be done. People know an ad is going to sell to them so you need to be real and self-aware. You don't want to watch this."

Ben

"To get someones attention in 5 seconds - that’s hard! You’re given an impossible task. High standard creativity is what matters. It’s up to the agencies to keep up with the formats."

Roz

"I read somewhere that you’re more likely to die in a plane crash than click a banner ad. I keep hearing interruptive and as soon as you interrupt, you start on a bad note. When following an influencer, normal people who you relate to, it comes down to behavioural economics. It’s families you’ve got to know telling you they like a product, rather than Amazon telling you. There's definitely something about electing yourself into things."

Tobias

"The key thing is that you need to deliver reach one way or another. It’s hard to reach a lot of people with those influencers who don't have those numbers. You can’t do one idea one thousand times. The problem with non-traditional is scale, and that is not going away."

Nicely put! Thank you, panellists. 

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