Advertising, right here and right now at the end of 2014, is being talked about more than it has in years.
Monty the Penguin, Romeo Beckham and the judgment of Sainsbury’s marketing department have all been doing the social media rounds. Apple have a multi-generational duet, Sony have their ice bubbles and M&S are following their fairies.
‘Traditional’ media is back, it’s bigger than ever and this time it’s being turbo-charged by an online offering. Look at John Lewis, they didn't have a multi-million pound spot on TV to launch their campaign this year - they chose to do it for free on Twitter, where they knew the conversations and shares could start immediately.
This joined-up approach is seeing these brands achieve massive reach and exposure. The Sainsbury’s advert ‘Christmas is for Sharing’ (of course it has its own title) had topped 15 million views on YouTube at the time of writing this. That’s 6 million more people than watched the final of X Factor.
Think about where you first saw the ad. Was it on the TV? Did a friend or colleague tell you to watch it? Or was someone in your network talking about it on social media?
Tried and tested advertising is being given a new lease of life across digital platforms – as are the ad agencies behind them. All of a sudden they have relevance again. This isn’t user-generated content, this isn’t citizen journalism; this is the pros pulling out all the stops.
And there’s a formula behind it. As we discussed in our blog last week, the best ads tell stories. They don’t tell us what to buy; they show us a feeling and hope that feeling strikes a chord that resonates through us.
There are two ways of looking at this, just like there can be two ways of looking at Christmas.
On the one hand there’s the commercial element. The relentless drive to increase sales and maximise profit that all stems back to an illustration commissioned by Coca-Cola.
On the other hand there’s the Christmas spirit and the undeniable fact that Christmas brings people together. Somewhere, underneath all the razzmatazz, is the essence of humanity and our unique capacity for hope, belief and love.
And it’s this spirit that the best adverts channel. These are the ads that move us in ways the very best art does. They are more than the sum of their parts and transcend the medium they’re portrayed on.
This is true all year round and particularly so at Christmas. To quote Aristotle, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” The best art is something that matters to the individual. So is the best marketing.
On a micro level, this is marketing that uses personalised, dynamic content that’s tailored for an individual (think to all the ads you're now seeing on Facebook as a result of your Christmas shopping). On a macro level, this is creating relevant, engaging and inspiring content.
There’s a reason people get excited by the John Lewis Christmas Ad each year. It makes them feel something. Not anyone else, it’s something that matters to them. Yet it works universally, which is why it’s so successful.
This is why the scales balance. The most successful campaigns, the ones that generate the most revenue, are the ones that matter the most, to the most. They capture the Zeitgeist and they capture Christmas; with all the bells, whistles and love-struck penguins it can hold.