Saturday, 16 June 2007

It's Chariots of Fire Meets Rocky - On Wheels!

As loathe as I am to start with the following sentence, something that I have used in the real world often, I am going to. I read an interesting in the Economist the other day…

The future of advertising is changing. That famous target demographic that once was as narrow as 14-16 year olds, probably, has over the years extended. Teenagers became the twenty-somethings, who became the thirty-somethings – disposable income rich, gadget and do-dah hungry. It’s kind of worrying and a little insulting that I belonged to that shifting demographic for so long, especially during that ugliest of decades, the 80’s, and the lazy/selfish 90’s. I’m still undecided as to whether it’s worse now to be out of the demographic at the wrong end, or to be part of a target demographic that is considered ‘not disposable-incomed enough’.

Anyway, the article was speaking of how the targets are getting harder to reach. People rarely watch a programme at its broadcast time, either getting box-set DVD’s or recording the show on some kind of box that allows them to freeze time and skip the ads. There is the possibility of inserting adverts inside games, especially those that involved players going on-line into new worlds, where such things as noting if a player pauses to look at a billboard, what sort of playing style they exhibit and the such can go towards drawing up a list – much like a very clever Nectar card that measures what you buy – of things that the player might be interested in. Or targeting the audience by region or time (an example given was a local pizzeria advertising in time for when the late night munchies strike).

So is this the end of old style advertising? Well, probably not. Although there are several places that now report or judge the standard away from the old-fashioned award giving, self-celebrating world that advertising used to be. Advertising seems more scrutinized, and not just from a standards agency point of view. There is the age old technique of trying to be humourous, but often this falls flat – a fine line is walked between funny and terrible, and it seems that the discerning disposable demographic are quite picky in this area.

As someone who has worked at the ‘factory floor’ side of advertising in this country, it isn’t pretty. Very uncreative, a little embarrassing and at so many levels unjustifiably expensive. I did a stint as a temp in a creative agency for a while years ago, and watched in disgust at the un-imaginative ideas flowing out of a bunch of dullards with a well stacked mini-fridge. I’ve worked on the floor of ads being shot, and the practice tends to be ask for lots of money, spend as much time as possible setting up shots, shoot as many takes as possible – all the while keeping the creative directors as far away as possible.

It’s a dull process for all involved. Although there was a part of me that was fascinated to watch an actor chew mouthfuls of raw meat for the 40th time in one day, constantly waiting to see if he would accidentally swallow some before the cut and bucket could come in. (NB: remember all those stories about actors being paid a fortune to sell something, but not really liking it, and spitting into a bucket when the cameras weren’t rolling? Well, if you were asked to eat something repeatedly all day long, after lunch even, you’d soon start spitting into buckets, plant pots, anything really). The product he was advertising was a famous burger company’s very famous ‘sandwich’. The problem was that when the burger was cooked, the heat wilted the lettuce and the patty looked too small – solution; paint the raw burger with a mixture of Bovril and Teriyaki Sauce.

I once dated someone who was in marketing, and was slightly appalled at how aware by accepting of her role as the consumer she was – any advertisement would work on her. But she doesn’t play computer games, so I guess the old fashioned way will have to do for her.

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