Saving The Whales, In A Manner Of Speaking

It’s been quite a run. The digital revolution has transformed the advertising business in the last 15 years beyond anything we imagined. Yet in some ways, the transformation brought with it a dangerous downside. But things are looking up.

The digital explosion had everyone living only for the moment deeming a commitment to concept, creative finesse and long-term brand development a questionable use of time and money. Branding didn’t belong on the web. Everything had to be measurable in real time. Digital marketing became mired in analytics. It was a business of speed, not nurturing. Click now. Variable ad serving finds the version that generates the most clicks, often at the expense of creative excellence, tone and manner. No time for craft here. Inexplicably, the intangible, emotional side of advertising had no place in digital. It was marketing for the moment. And hey, it’s always been tricky to measure emotional influence and its impact on purchase and loyalty anyway.

To exacerbate the problem, young creatives in the business grew up in a multi screen, wired world where wireframes are often done before there is even a conceptual approach. Where did the magic of the “concept” go? Who’s teaching them the art of the game? Where’s the passion for crafting a perfect headline, really finessing the language? Or worrying about meticulous kerning, line spacing, readability, or fixing that dreaded widow? Lost is the honing of the work to the aesthetic standard of… well… art. And make no mistake, consumers know the difference. They cannot only see it, they can feel it. They can see it in the words and in the images. They know production values.

While the business has changed, human nature has not. We are emotional creatures first and foremost and the power of building emotional connections over time cannot be denied. If I can make you laugh, you will pay attention. If I can make you cry, you will remember me. If you think the brand is smart, then it will make you feel smart. People will never change. They wear brands like badges and they choose their badges emotionally. I don’t care whether it’s B2C or B2B, it’s all the same. We are emotional creatures first. And we justify our emotions rationally.

With the staggering decline of print, newspaper, B2B trades, and the ability to completely avoid TV spots altogether, things are turning around. Craft is making a comeback and I believe the craft of our business will rule again. It has to. The internet has become the primary channel for exposure for many brands and this is not lost on CMO’s today. A conflict for the cost-per-click contingent. And often anathema to some young creative people who don’t start with the concept and were never pushed to see communications as a craft to be perfected.

Bringing this sense of craft to the typically hermetic world of digital advertising is on the rise and it does my soul good. It has come full circle. It is what it always was. Certainly, the advancement of technology – CSS, HTML5, font selection, bandwidth, screen resolution, et al., have helped fuel the return to the craft of our trade.  Brands can ill afford not to embrace emotionally, intellectually, and creatively connecting with their constituents online. Relationships take time, click-throughs be damned.

Advertising will always be an art supported by science. Not the other way around.
Be inspired, the craft is back: