Why ad­ver­tis­ers need to start adding value to our lives

BUSI­NESS BOOKS Here’s an idea, com­pa­nies: Sub­si­dize si­lence, stop air­ing mes­sages that in­ter­rupt and an­noy

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - @jay­robb serves as di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for Mo­hawk Col­lege and lives in Hamil­ton.

I’m a big fan of pod­casts.

The Turn­around and On the Me­dia are my favourites for two rea­sons.

Both pod­casts have great hosts, guests and con­ver­sa­tions. Turn­around host Jesse Thorn talks with in­ter­view­ers about the art of in­ter­view­ing while On the Me­dia’s Brooke Glad­stone and Bob Garfield look at how the news me­dia shape our view of the world.

And here’s the other rea­son why I’m a fan. The con­ver­sa­tions on th­ese two pod­casts don’t get in­ter­rupted to sell me ra­zors, un­der­wear and meal kits that I can or­der on­line with spe­cial promo codes.

Lots of us are tired of tra­di­tional ad­ver­tis­ing and we’re find­ing ways to es­cape it, whether it’s through ditch­ing ca­ble TV for Net­flix or down­load­ing ad-block­ing apps on our smart­phones.

Ad­ver­tis­ers need to start adding value to our lives and stop in­ter­rupt­ing and an­noy­ing us, says An­drew Es­sex, au­thor of “The End of Ad­ver­tis­ing,” past CEO of the award-win­ning Droga5 ad agency and a board mem­ber with the Amer­i­can Ad­ver­tis­ing Fed­er­a­tion.

“In an era of un­prece­dented noise, pro­duc­ing pol­lu­tion in the form of an­noy­ing ad­ver­tis­ing rep­re­sents the height of an un­prin­ci­pled ap­proach and, more wor­ri­some, is likely flat-out bad for busi­ness.

“Ad­ver­tis­ing will con­tinue to take its lumps,” says Es­sex. “Like ev­ery­thing in­her­ently un­wanted, from stale pas­tries to last sea­son’s so­cial me­dia, it was doomed to be over­shad­owed. Like pol­lu­tion, we pre­fer it in the land­fill rather than ran­domly strewn along the road. Peo­ple, plat­forms and prod­ucts will have to dis­tin­guish them­selves by do­ing some­thing rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent, will have to em­brace the not-so-rad­i­cal idea of al­ways en­deav­our­ing to be use­ful, au­then­tic, orig­i­nal and/or in­ter­est­ing.”

So what’s the rad­i­cal al­ter­na­tive to tra­di­tional ad­ver­tis­ing?

Citibank spent $41 mil­lion over five years to spon­sor New York City’s bike shar­ing pro­gram. Citi Bikes give the bank 6,000 roam­ing bill­boards while ap­pre­cia­tive New York­ers and tourists get a bike share pro­gram that doesn’t cost tax­pay­ers a dime.

“You don’t need much more than in­tu­ition to see that most peo­ple would choose a clean Citi Bike over a use­less ad,” says Es­sex. “One ac­com­plishes some­thing, the other doesn’t.”

Amer­i­can Girl puts out movies, books, clothes and ac­ces­sories. Es­sex says his daugh­ter knows all about Amer­i­can Girl with­out hav­ing ever seen a TV, mag­a­zine or in­ter­net ban­ner ad from the com­pany.

“All this very savvy com­pany had done was com­mu­ni­cate its val­ues via con­tent, a very old model that was new and nec­es­sary again. They’d be­come gen­uine sto­ry­tellers and put them­selves as the cen­tre of the story.”

And then there’s the world’s big­gest toy com­pany. In 2014, Lego found a way to tran­scend ad­ver­tis­ing with “The Lego Movie.” Lots of us paid good money to put on 3D glasses and watch a 100-minute com­mer­cial. “The Lego Movie” grossed $260 mil­lion in North Amer­ica and an­other $210 mil­lion in­ter­na­tion­ally. In 2015, Lego over­took Mat­tel to be­come the world’s most valu­able toy com­pany with more than $2 bil­lion in an­nual sales.

“A brand made a bril­liant, wellex­e­cuted movie,” says Es­sex. “The movie was a hit. The movie also hap­pened to be an ad, one that peo­ple were will­ing to pay to see. For the first time in a long time, the thing that nor­mally sold the thing had be­come the thing it­self.”

Your com­pany doesn’t need to cre­ate the next Hol­ly­wood block­buster, says Es­sex. Just spon­sor qual­ity con­tent that re­flects well on your brand. Make that con­tent com­mer­cial free for view­ers, lis­ten­ers and read­ers. Sub­si­dize si­lence and give au­di­ences free­dom from tra­di­tional ad­ver­tis­ing that in­ter­rupts and an­noys.

And what do you get in re­turn? If you be­came the pre­sent­ing spon­sor of The Turn­around or On the Me­dia, you’d earn my grat­i­tude, my at­ten­tion and quite pos­si­bly my busi­ness.

“The End of Ad­ver­tis­ing” by An­drew Es­sex ar­gues tra­di­tional prac­tices are likely bad for busi­ness th­ese days.


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