018: Pivotal moments
[Before - Session 6] What a great time to enter marketing and advertising
Monday will be busy.
First I’m visiting Mark Jenson’s (Marketing and Advertising) Campaigns course at the University of Minnesota. We’re going to address “pivotal moments.” I happen to think we’re beginning a monumental one right now.
Then I’ll head across the metro to the Minneapolis College of Art and Design for the sixth session of the Future of Advertising course. We’re going to focus on the impact and future of Social Media and influence with Greg Swan, author of.
Speaking of pivotal moments, are you subscribed?
What constitutes “pivotal?”
This history of advertising in the U.S. could be summarized this way:
1704-1920 Birth of the industry, dominated by Print
1920-1940 Pivotal Moment: Birth of Broadcast (Radio, then TV)
1940-1990 Lot of ideas, philosophy and standardization
1990-2022 Pivotal Moment: Birth of the Internet, then Social
2022+ Pivotal Moment: Birth of AI-Generative Tech
(If your jam is creativity, this timeline appears to dismiss Bernbach’s insight to pair writers with art directors, the Mad Men area, the dawn of brands, and the Super Bowl, never mind a slew of industry defining work. Don’t worry! TL;DR = Talent wins in the end, but maybe not as expected.)
The advertising and marketing era prior to 1990 encompasses almost 300 years of evolving but consistent methodology, within familiar constraints (once you incorporate Broadcast). As ad legend Pat Fallon put it, “If you can’t outspend them, you can certainly outthink them.” This quote greatly simplifies two broad approaches: Outspend (within a very limited supply of print and broadcast media), or Outthink.
Did pivotal ideas emerge in those 300 years? Of course. But I could argue almost all of them fall within the Outthink camp. For centuries, a majority of marketers presumed their money bought them awareness, conversion and loyalty. Many still do! And maybe it does!
Once the Internet arrives (encompassing enabling software, cheaper and cheaper bandwidth and storage), however, the second truly pivotal moment occurs in roughly 300 years: Suddenly, anyone can be a publisher. The pivot is the “democratization” of media.
Benedict Evan’s latest Gatekeepers presentation is filled with lots of useful data and insights like this one.
Imagine Don Draper trying to explain the media and technology upheaval making MrBeast possible. Marketing and advertising are still wrestling with the seismic circumstances of the past 30 years. Especially with the onset of social, and the rise of the media/tech-empowered individual brand. Therein lies opportunity.
If you can choose when to enter an industry, choose a pivotal moment
My U of M presentation is really about a confluence, a two-part Venn diagram: Creative Briefs and A.I. in this moment.
Creative Briefs might have existed the entire 300 year history of advertising. But it’s the arrival (in the 1970s) and refinement of Behavioral Economics that make all the difference. Because now we have scientific rigor focused on what I suspect is the most potent ingredient in any brief: Who’s behavior are we trying to impact? (I frame it: “Describe the most salient behavior related to this opportunity.”)
The opportunity to generate noteworthy value through briefing has never been better. Those authoring briefs today stand on the shoulders of Sutherland, Cialdini, Taversky, Kahneman, Thaler, et al. Which is likely as liberating as the newfangled technology emerging around us.
Next week’s major theme is A.I. and Machine Learning. We’ll dive plenty deep then. It’s enough to say this now and repeat it later: “A.I. will not replace you. A person using A.I. will replace you.”
In the realm of strategy and creative briefs, A.I. is enabling and augmenting the speed and depth of research and analysis. Do planners writing briefs need to be extra careful their A.I. isn’t hallucinating data? Yes. Can these tools deliver noteworthy value? Absolutely.
But there’s an even bigger pivot.
For over 300 years the ad industry has contained a massive constraint, a hurdle for most. Let’s call it “Art.”
The ability to draw or design coherently and persuasively, to convey legible ideas with lines, shapes, images, color, contrast and taste, helped a minority exercise incredible power across the advertising industry. This is not a judgement, merely an observation. If you could draw and/or design, you were rare and desired and your salary and status could reflect your skills and taste. If you couldn’t convey visually you worked with the majority in other roles.
All this is changing, thanks to A.I.-generative technology.
I’m not sure there’s a bigger pivotal moment in the history of advertising than the arrival of A.I.-generative Art.
What a time to be alive.
I’ll be back Monday evening with the “During” post covering Greg Swan’s class visit and the subject of social media and influence.
Loving this journey with you and your class Tim🙏👏👏👏👏👍