Welcome to the 5th age of advertising

relevanceThere have been roughly 4 ages of advertising.  We have now entered the 5th age.  The Age of Relevance.

In the  1st age in the 1950s, in the Age of Interruption, consumers were happy to pay attention to advertising and essentially to do what it told them to do because they actively sought the reassurance of brand names and tended to trust what big companies told them.  Culturally advertising represented an antidote to the scarcity of the war years.

In the 2nd age, the Age of Entertainment in the 1960s and 70s people would still pay attention to ads, but they needed to be entertaining.  This was the first golden age of creativity in advertising.  People actively sought out entertaining advertising, school kids acted the great ads out in playgrounds and some of the brand building effects of this resonate today.  Many people can still recite the slogans from ads in those days;  (were they in fact ad slogans or mini poems to brands?  “a million housewives every day, pick up a can of beans and say: ‘Beanz means Heinz’”).   John Webster’s Smash Martians ads still top leagues of favourites.  Dave Trott’s “Ariston and on and on” still sings to us (even though you may have a Bosch now).  People actively looked forward to the new Cinzano, Hamlet or Gold Blend execution.  The age of entertainment waned, as the IPA has reported and mutated into the 3rd age of advertising.

In the 3rd age, the Age of Engagement, in the 80s and 90s, the relatively rapid rise in the number of media channels meant that reaching people at the right time and place was crucial.  Then the rise of social channels and ecommerce changed things fundamentally in the early 2000s.

In the next era, in the Age of Dialogue, dialogues between consumers could and often did have more effect on brand growth than advertising.  In the old paradigm when you popped into a department store to buy a new dishwasher other customers didn’t come up to you and tell you what they thought of it.  That’s exactly what they do online.  As I wrote in “Tell the truth, honesty is your most powerful marketing tool” the consumer had become an expert, in finding out price comparisons, sourcing provenance and discovering other people’s opinions.  Social media and researching and buying online changed shopping for ever.

And where are we now?

We are at the dawn of a new promise.  The age of Relevance.  In the age of Relevance ads are served to the right people at the right time and in the right format and place fuelled by brilliant live personal data insight and not the proxies we used in the 1990s.  If this is combined with a renewal of brilliant creativity informed by our data led understanding of what gets a brand talked about, what resonates culturally and what is truly personally magnetic, then we have a future ahead of us where no one dodges advertising because the advertising that they are served is the right message, at the right time, in the right place with the right relevancy.  We will be in a new golden era for creativity across the whole purchase cycle.

And consumers themselves will contribute to this age of relevance.  By editing their own ad preferences, by skipping ads they find disruptive and by being careful of their privacy they will ensure that the work that cuts through is rewarded.

There’s work in our Creative Systems department that shows where data, media and creative are optimised in concert effectiveness increases significantly – I find this really striking and a real signpost for the future.  A future where new data delivers new effectiveness.  As Stef Calcraft, global ceo creative transformation says: “The truth is that with new knowledge comes competitive, creative advantage”

There’s a bright positive future for those brands that get this right. Those that don’t will find themselves increasingly irrelevant.



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