Friday, July 16th, 2010...12:48 am

Ads Of The Future

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I have issues with television commercials. Most notable is that they all pretty much suck. Sure, every now and then there’s a commercial that gives me a chuckle the first time I view it. Outside of the movie “The Sandlot” though, there are very few things I want to watch repeatedly, over and over again on television. Ellen Page shilling Cisco routers, British lizards croaking about insurance and dudes getting boners over light beer don’t exactly make the cut.

The issue isn’t the content as much as how it is delivered and how quickly it becomes stale. The Super Bowl commercials are great because they are all new and fresh. But most commercials run for months with the same exact 30 second unit. Perhaps there is an argument that repetition is an effective marketing tactic. But I don’t need to re-read my Comm 101 course pack to know that annoying the crap out of people isn’t an effective marketing tactic.

Imagine somebody gave you $5MM to spend on 50 prime time 30 second content blocks over the course of 3 months with the goal to be as influential as possible. Would you really think the most efficient way to do this would be to develop one piece of content and then run it 50 times? How about running 50 pieces of content one time each?

We now live in a real-time instant gratification world where fresh content is at our finger tips through Facebook, twitter and [choose your favorite] mobile apps. Pick up a newspaper and the first thing you realize is that the news in it is one day OLD.

Now let’s analyze your average commercial

1) It’s been played on television for a few weeks or even a few months
2) Therefore, there’s a good chance you’ve already seen it multiple times
3) The concepting, development and production may very well have started over one year ago

Man, if I wanted old, lame content I would watch TV Land.

Luckily for some, there is a vast brand marketing and creative agency conspiracy brewing in which everybody just pretends that their commercials don’t suck. An amazing commercial is just one that sucks a little less than the rest of them. This is comparable to when I get together with my fat/slow/short friends and we play basketball against each other. My 17% 3-pointer percentage is impressive compared to Evanter’s broken shot or Hillman’s defense is suffocating when he is guarding Kosh. Now imagine we charged for spectators to watch us play and they paid without it ever dawning on them how inferior our game was compared to professional basketball. Am I on crazy pills??

Here’s a little secret – there’s is a reason why people DVR shows just to skip the commercials.

A few years ago (July ’08) I wrote a blog post in which I basically suggested one way to make commercials suck less is for them to introduce new music. It was a cutesy idea but didn’t really solve the major issues I’ve mentioned above.

So when I first saw what Old Spice did this week I was amazed. I’ve seen the future!

Quick backstory – Old Spice has been running a series of commercials called “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” with a cocky, confident, chiseled dude who articulately talks about the weird stuff that he is doing. They are the exact type of clever commercials that suck less and can be tolerated even after you’ve already seen each ad over a dozen times. This week they took it to another level. Over a two day period, Old Spice created over 80 short YouTube video ads in which the Old Spice Guy responds directly to people through social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.). Old Spice Guy responds to both celebrities and regular folks all in high quality, well-written “commercial-like” responses. You can watch the YouTube videos here.

So in real-time Old Spice was creating awesome, fresh content. It leveraged cheaper production costs, social media distribution platforms, and two way communication with its viewers to do something cool. Instead of relying on technologies from the freaking 1960′s, Old Spice figured out how to leverage modern day tools, platform and technologies to create the kind of stuff that people love.

I was into it. On Wednesday, I tweeted to Old Spice that I would donate $100 to any charity they mentioned if they made a video reply to me. I was so excited that I crossed my toes as I typled.

I’m not saying every brand should start employing this exact gimmick. But I’d be willing to bet marketing and advertising will look a lot more like this in ten years than the standard 30 second commercial. It definitely will take some time. Processes need to be modernized. For instance, the way commercials are approved and trafficked are obsolete. Brands have to be willing to further let go of how tightly they control the marketing message. The intricate conspiracy of pretending that commercials don’t suck will need to be exposed like Jeff Francouer lack of plate discipline.

Hopefully this is a harbinger of more cool stuff to come in television advertising. Otherwise, when the advanced life forms in 2150 look back at the “Lebron Era” of history (in their Comm 101 classes) they’re just going to laugh at how stupid we all were!

Here is a video that Old Spice made in response to a comment by Perez Hilton…