A recent video, portraying one possible future of marketing, reveals dissonance between marketing prognosticators on the one hand, and most marketers -- and the public -- on the other. Launched February 18 by PHD Worldwide (part of Omnicom Media), the two-minute spot, entitled "We Are The Future," went viral, averaging 13 views per minute across 10 days.
Young teen actors warn:
If you work in marketing, you'd better start upping your game... In just 10 years from now, we'll be buying, and
influencing buying, in ways that will confound you...
They demand immersive experiences:
We won't just watch your ads. We'll expect smart, tailored content... We want to interact with it as we watch it. Not just with touch, but with voice, gesture... with intent.
They also assert unprecedented future powers:
We can change your business in one trade! And you'd better get used to paying us. Our browsing, influencing, and purchasing data will make some of us pretty rich. But don't overstep the mark, otherwise we'll block you. Mass blocks
kill brands overnight. And keep you up all night.
Viewers posted overwhelmingly negative reactions to the video, and what it portends. The YouTube instance garnered hundreds of critical postings, often profane; commenters then berated PHD for deleting vulgarities. PHD's Global Strategy Director, Mark Holden, later conceded, "On reflection we should have left them."
Commenters invoked the specter of sinister children (citing Village of the Damned), and intrusive marketing (as portrayed in Minority Report). British comedian Dave Gorman tweeted fear to 120K followers: "This marketing vid is a spoof, right? It can't be real can it? Where's the reveal? Oh. It's real. We're doomed."
Marketers responding to the video on PHD's blog were "repulsed" by this "hackneyed horror" "polluting the industry." Some said it "perpetuates the stereotype that social media is just an industry of buzzwords and pseudo-science", while excoriating "that wonderful smug marketing glow that only the satifaction of pissing off an entire demographic can bring."
PHD's Holden acknowledged, "We were not prepared for the reaction this would create."
PHD's missteps weren't due to a lack of resources. PHD USA claims to be a "top 10 media buyer in the US representing nearly $4 billion in media billings," and was finalist for several of Marketing Magazine's 2010 Agency of the Year Awards. The spot was commissioned internally. Campaign Live reports that it also aired on Bloomberg TV.
The likely source of PHD's miscalculation: communing only internally, in too rarified an atmosphere. By gazing too far ahead, the spot failed to offer the audience a recognizable role for themselves. Accentuating their indifference to the audience, PHD ignored even today'sbest-practices:
The PHD blog displaying the video remains orphaned; it links to no corporate domain.
After a rollout tweet ("PHD's new ad is a reflection on how the next generation will engage with brands..."), even as feedback mounted, PHD's Twitter account remained silent for three days.
When comments swung wildly negative, PHD aggressively censored them.
Such missteps -- obscuring connections, ignoring audiences, and censoring feedback -- guarantee alienation online.
Finally, PHD -- and most commenters, both marketers and others -- missed the fact that for most of us, for the next 10 years, the video does not really describe marketing's future.
Some expensive goods, marketed to the very wealthy, may merit the complex treatments the video suggests. That narrow demographic may be worthy prey as economic forces continue moving more money toward fewer people. Most of us, though, will experience such high-tech engagement only at expo booths, or in the equivalent of a marketing theme park.
The "We Are The Future" script may represent one aspect of the future: marketing of the elite, by the elite, and for the elite. But how long before we see such interactive outreach done effectively for general audiences? Twenty years? More? Is any segment of your audience ready to arrive there sooner?
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The problem of the video is really quite basic -- it's not what you say, it's how you say it. In this case, we have confrontational message delievered by kids.
What else would tick off any adult faster that some snot-nosed punk talking back to them or failing to show respect?
And that's the problem. Nobody's going to even register the message if it's delievered that way. I think most kids understand that you just don't talk like that to adults unless there's something really seriously wrong going on, so they find it offensive too, because they're being shown in a bad light.
I took a good look at the video, and the message separated by the delivery really wasn't too bad. They're really trying to look ahead of the loop. I don't see people being paid to be marketed to though... compensanted for their data is another story. And as Mitch pointed out, the 'single trade' is not quite sensical either -- unless we're talking something along the lines of the Angry Birds' 8-year "overnight" success, where it just appears that a critical failure or success happened over a short period.
The future of advertising and marketing might indeed look like what we saw in MINORITY REPORT (the 2002 film somewhat based on the Phillip K. Dick science fiction story of the same name, starring Tom Cruise.
Or it might not.
Ten-year prediction videos are worth the paper they're printed on. Even if they are right, what use is this information to today's marketers?
Do you want these kids as your customers in ten years?
Like others have said, the real issue: would you want this company doing your marketing for you today?
I'd like to see a video from these kids' parents :-)
Hello all! Thanks for joining in. It's surprising how unsettled viewers feel after watching this video. The source of the discomfort may be the video's form or its content, but it seems to arrive on both personal and professional channels. I expect to see the audience grimace, and say aloud, "Whoa... what was that about?!" -- or worse.
I've continued to puzzle over what PHD intended to accomplish -- to give them the benefit of the doubt. Might they have intended to raise a furor, just to garner attention? Were they testing some subliminal effect for future applications? Did they hope to make marketing seem creepy, so clients would feel compelled to get professional help? Even though they seem to have failed at many levels, did PHD achieve some obscure but very constructive goal I haven't recognized?
I have one theory that seems both plausible and sufficient. As Mitch says, we all anticipate more personalized messages, where it can be cost-effective. But, there may be a few potential marketing clients itching to push far beyond that point. Some may be willing to pay for very expensive design, implementation, data integration, and even real time, ongoing support for a campaign (imagine the help desk for immersive interactive experiences with lots of moving parts). Perhaps PHD simply wants to woo that small slice of some very progressive industry. Maybe PHD wants to turn away from the Long Tail, and pursue... the Pointy Head?
Notwithstanding the scariness of the kids, the video is a good prediction of what marketing will look ike in 10 years. Consumers will expect personalized messages. Marketers criticising the video are short-sighted.
The only two things I'd quarrel with are the idea that consumers will be ble to make or break a business in one trade -- I don't know what that means -- and the idea that consumers will demaind to be paid to be marketed to.
Paying consumers to receive marketing messages has been tried inthe past, it doesn't work, and I don't kow why it would succceed in the future. The only people who accept payment for being marketed to are people who are, on the one hand, digitially connected enough to receive the messages, but for whom that kind of money is attractive -- starving students and other consumers who are poor marketing targets because they don't have much money to spend.
hms, I believe they were intending by this video to establish themselves as thought leaders in the marketing space. As Gary said, its development may have been too insular. The result was more like thought FAIL.
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