End Of Advertising Theory
In one of the most controversial stories of the recent fortnight, Wired’s Chris Anderson postulates the end of theory. Theory, as explained by Wikipedia is often used to signify a conjecture, an opinion, a speculation, or a hypothesis. Something that starts off as an inference, which can then be tested and proven to be true, or one which is assumed to be true since there is no evidence to alter its status as a fact.
While the Wired cover story is being debated endlessly, we think its time to put forth a hypothesis that, with all the changes happening today in the world of advertising and marketing, maybe it’s time to consign many longstanding formulae, which have bought our industry so far, into the pages of history.
Many holy cows are being slaughtered around us at the moment, that maybe the only formula that works or will work in our business in the near future is no formula. So here we bravely set forth, with our two bits that predict the end of advertising theory.
Let’s look at some of the best examples of advertising from around the world. And many of them come from one agency based in London. Fallon. Maybe their most recent adventure for Orange ended up a bit formulaic, but everything starting from Sony balls up to Cadbury’s Trucks, tells us that we are entering an era where sticking to recently established norm is one way of getting stuck.
One of the most discussed pieces of advertising work in recent history is the Cadbury Gorilla piece from Fallon. A lot of theory has been put forth by experts on why it works and why it doesn’t. But is there a formula to ensure that you can recreate the success of a piece like that? If so why couldn’t the sequel, trucks, generate the same kind of buzz?
Now it is perhaps too premature to comment on the changes that an industry is undergoing based on two pieces of work. But before you send us hate mail, let’s look at a few other. Ideas like Audi’s Art of the Heist Marco Ecko’s Still Free, Burger Kings Whopper Freakout, HBO Voyeur and India’s own Lead India. I don’t think any amount of theory can help us replicate ideas like these. And in a hyper cluttered world that we are entering, the only thing that could help brands make their communication stand out is by creating ideas that have no precedent, no successful formula to go by. In fact the pundits at the venerable Millward Brown are scurrying around to find new ways to test ideas like the Gorilla.
In Chris Anderson’s essay the end of the theory in science is bring brought out by the easy availability of real-time data. In the world of advertising we will never have enough data to find out how path breaking ideas will perform once they are exposed to the world.