Do Ideas Need Ads Anymore?

I don’t think there’s much question that the quality of a really great ad is dependent on the quality of the idea it’s built upon. Ads like DDB’s the 1960’s iconic VW “Lemon” or any of the ’90’s “Got Milk” campaign we’re memorable high concept ideas that influenced consumer behavior in the pre-Facebook, YouTube, Twitter days of advertising.

There was a time in the not-so-recent past when print truly made a difference in brand advertising. When people bought a product because because they believed it made them appear smarter, more sophisticated, or more intelligent. Not only in their own mind but to others as well. No more. When consumers of advertising messages also became the creators, a tectonic shift occurred.

The 20th century ‘analog’ idea became the flexible, agile, stretchable, shareable ‘digital’ idea of 2011. One that doesn’t rely on ads anymore. One that doesn’t fight with competing brands for the consumer’s attention. Not anymore.

Today, ad ideas battle against every other message out there that people see, hear or read. Slugging it out against more than just advertising messages. Trying to get noticed above all the other bits of information, from RSS feeds to  blog posts to Facebook walls to a countless stream of text messages.

The thought that I’ve wrestled with in the past few days is this: “Have ads, as brand building blocks, finally become irrelevant and unnecessary?”

In a word, probably. Much as I still love creating them, (I really do) they’ve sadly become the Jimmy Carter of media… aging (not very gracefully), occasionally attracting some attention, but for the most part, they’re irrelevant and unnecessary.

Here’s proof. Name a print campaign that made you want to buy the product without going online first.

Don’t misunderstand me. I like nothing better than to gaze upon a two-page print ad with a killer concept, pithy on-point copywriting and art directed to the nines. But the times they are a changin’…  too fast, maybe. Tick, tick, tick. Waiting three weeks for the next copy of Wired to get a new print blast of brand personality just doesn’t cut it in today’s 24-hour, spin-dry, news cycle world.

So just give me ideas. Lots of them. And keep ’em coming. Ones that solve problems. That satisfy a need or desire. Hopefully the ones I have. In any media. Any time. Every day.

I recently read that created 100 commercials this past year. Talk about speed dating!

So content isn’t just king. It’s King Kong!

But I for one am glad. Really glad. Because for us idea junkies, well, we’ve become more relevant and valuable than ever before.

Week 1 Meets White Wine on the Rocks

I encourage everyone to learn more about the founding fathers of the Golden Age of Advertising by Googling Bill Bernbach, David Ogilvy, Helmut Krone, Bob Gage, Roy Grace and George Lois. Their work is iconic and timeless. They are my inspiration and my heroes. And they did incredible work without a single Adobe App!

Oh, and speaking of German wine, check out this link to Comm Arts that showcases a cool label design inspired by the German region and river of it’s origin. This label design stopped me for a moment and I started to consider if there had ever been an advertising campaign that influenced me to buy a particular wine. You know, I couldn’t recall a single one. The only one I could recall was a campaign created more than 20 years ago by Hal Riney and Partners, San Francisco, for Bartles and James… and that was really a wine cooler. The campaign (Google and You Tube it) became a long running success for the Gallo Wine Company garnering great attention and press, much like the recent Mac vs PC campaign. It wasn’t adversarial like the Mac campaign, though. Instead, both characters (named Bartles and Jaymes) were homespun looking, down-home types and sat on the front porch of a farm house. One of them (I think Jaymes) did all of the talking and he ended every tv commercial with the line, “And thank you for your support.” The campaign was “country corny” but it sure sold a lot of wine cooler.