6-second ads and the ‘Death of Advertising’

It’s been much-maligned by some advertising veterans, but short-term performance plays a vital role in effective brand communication strategies, says COREY WAY—

More and more recently, I’ve seen advertising vets speak out on the “death” of our industry. They usually point their fingers at one specific reason: short-form, performance advertising.

They believe that short-form content and digital media buying have created an industry of tight turn arounds, smaller budgets, and a focus on ROI and the “numbers.” <shudders in fear> And they’re right.

They think these shifts have led to a lack of brand voice, movement towards lowbrow performance creative, a focus on quantity over quality, and the end of compelling brand story telling.

That’s where they are wrong. Short-form digital creative absolutely allows you to develop a voice and build your brand; but more importantly, it’s what brands have to do because it’s all their customers will accept.

Throughout the golden age of advertising, TV had the unbelievable luxury of forcing its audience to watch ads.

Ads that were great in the heyday of TV changed culture as we knew it. They moved people. They made people care about the biggest brands in the world. They had compelling stories and high production quality. The good ones even felt like short movies.

But nothing stays the same. The internet rose to become the primary source of entertainment, information, and communication. It taught advertisers the most important, gut-punching lesson that made us rethink everything: Given the option, most people would rather skip even the greatest TV ad.

That’s particularly true when they interrupt their frantic, short attention fuelled digital content. We have all of the music, TV shows, and movies ever made at our fingertips. No one is going to let an ad get in their way.

As the internet and social media surpassed TV, we saw a massive shift in media buying. Data analytics and audience targeting was getting sophisticated enough to track niche interests, create unique audiences and serve different messaging based on a person’s point in a consumer journey.

Enter the wave of performance advertising: Using click bait creative and advanced targeting to hack the “numbers: <shudders> to drive clicks and purchases with no long term brand voice or vision. Using targeting so sophisticated that people think their phones are listening to them.

Even I can admit, we swung the pendulum too far. But we did learn another lesson. Maybe no one likes ads, but everyone likes content that speaks to their likes, aesthetics, and interests.

Creative requires different messaging for different audiences. There is no one-size-fits-all anymore. Whereas once you needed to plan one or two TV commercials a year, now you have to think about months of creative—multiple pieces that speak to a variety of audiences at different stages in the consumer journey.

There’s still a story to be told. It just might not be the story you’re used to telling. And yes, you need to care about performance-based targeting to accompany your brand creative. It’s not one or the other. It’s both together for maximum effect.

I’ve only been in this industry for a relatively short time, but it irks me that the OG creatives I admire most believe the changes that bring new advertising to life are its “death.”

What they fail to realize is that the internet and social media offer the biggest opportunity for how brands communicate. We can tailor our messages, speak more directly to people’s interests, and tell even more stories.

Best of all, we can create stronger, long-lasting relationships with consumers. And isn’t that what this industry is all about?

Corey Way is a Cannes Lion-winning designer, and creative director of Toronto based agency Abacus.