To a substantial degree, digital ad agencies and digital gurus have accepted and helped spread the notion that the big idea is dead. The question is: why?
It seems perfectly obvious that with the enormous growth in media consumption, with the colossal increase in the number of marketing messages the average person is asked to pay attention to, it is more important than ever to have an idea that sits up and attracts attention. So why would some in the digital crowd go out of their way to deny this?
To answer this, the first thing we need to do is look at where the really good online work is coming from. To a surprising extent, it is not coming from digital agencies.
For the next five years or so, social media marketing maniacs will be hitting us over the head with the new poster child of social media marketing -the Old Spice campaign. Like them, I believe this campaign is terrific and will continue to be extremely successful. However, there are two things we need to remember about it: it started as a TV idea. It was not done by a digital agency.
This must be galling to digital agencies. For years, we ad people had to put up with their smug declarations that we "just don't get it".
Well, it turns out there's nothing to get. Communication is communication. Some of it is good. Some of it is bad. Some of it comes through a cable, some of it comes through the air. Some of it is persuasive and entertaining. Some of it is dull and ineffectual.
What sensible marketing people have been saying for years turns out to be true. More than anything else, it's the idea that counts, not the delivery system.
I am not surprised that traditional agencies are now catching, if not surpassing, digital agencies in online advertising innovation. Why? Because traditional agencies still respect and believe in big ideas.
The really big ideas in digital marketing are starting to slip away from digital shops. Could that be the real reason why digital specialists and their apologists have given up on the "big idea"?
Is that why they're declaring the game is all about bunting?
TECHNOLOGY HAS BLUNTED OUR BRAIN
I recently read Clay Shirky's Cognitive Surplus. He argues that for decades, technology (ie. TV) encouraged us to squander our time as passive consumers. Today, tech has finally caught up with human potential, meaning that time previously wasted passively watching TV (the "cognitive surplus") can now be put to use in new forms of collaboration and creativity enabled by the web, mobile and social media. And this is a good thing, because even posting captions on funny pictures of cats is a creative act, not passive consumption.
It occurs to me that, while this may be true for us as consumers, as workers in the media, the impact of technology is the reverse. Our jobs have become so much more complex and demanding, and the industry has become so stretched. Technology has made work and work-related stuff so pervasive and persistent that we suffer from what might be "cognitive deficit": not enough time to think about anything properly because, in order to keep up, we're too busy calling and texting and blogging and Tweeting and updating and checking in and networking and surfing and searching. To recover, what we need is a night vegging out in front of the TV. Maybe I should work up this theory and blog post into a bestselling book. Unfortunately, I don't have the free time.
IS SEXISM THIS STRAIGHTFORWARD?
In Australia, it's sexist to ask your wife to clean the house. Wait, it's sexist everywhere because, as we know, asking a stay-at-home mom to, well, stay at home and take care of the house is just wrong.
This My Local VIP cleaning service ad depicts a man returning from work to a house he thought would be cleaned while he was away. Mom was too busy with the kids and all that goes with managing a house. My Local VIP has received complaints from viewers who say the ad is sexist. Is it? Answer honestly. If you (male or female) returned home from work expecting the house to be clean (because you and your spouse talked about it getting cleaned in the morning before you went to work) and it was a mess, would you ask: "Honey, I thought you were going to clean the house today?" Or would you say: "Honey, you must have had a really tough day. It looks like the kids ran you ragged. Why don't you have a seat and I'll get you a glass of wine." Answer honestly.