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Monday, June 26, 2006

The death of advertising?

At the link, Grant McCracken comments on Maurice Saatchi's dirge on the impending failure of advertising. Specifically, Saatchi's premise:

"...nowadays only brutally simple ideas get through. They travel lighter, they travel faster.

WhatI am describing here is a new business model for marketing, appropriate to the digital age. In this model, companies compete for global ownership of one word in the public mind.

This is "one word equity".

In this new business model, companies seek to build one word equity - to define the one characteristic they most want instantly associated with their brand around the world, and then own it. That is one-word equity."

McCracken searches for the appropriate characterization of this premise. "Insane" seems to best capture it. I agree, but for perhaps different reasons. As attractive as such a reductionist theory is (and arrogant to boot), it is completely seperated from any understanding of what consumers - strike that, people are fast becoming. We are living in a world that is increasingly powered by tools of control that generate increasing amounts of personal autonomy. Personal Autonomy is simply the ability to control ones resources. Ron Inglehart, in "Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy", uses World Values Survey data to pursuasively present this process as nothing less than the Human Develelopment Sequence. More recently, the previously mentioned "Stumbling on Happiness" notes that we are hard-wired to desire control. The effect of all this autonomy is that people are "free" to become ever-more complex, ever-more individualistic. I believe the effect is that "consumers" contruct a highly personalized connection to brands that can't be easily understood or dictated by us ad folks. The best we can do is provide compelling, mildly cohesive ideas that allow as many consumers as possible to construct a personal connection to a given brand. It's what consumers do already, lets learn to feed them.

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