Advertising Re-imagined

Remember the good old days of advertising? The days when television reigned supreme, print was a copywriter’s paradise and outdoor posters were art?

By contrast, agencies today have to work with fragmented audiences, digital banner ads and Facebook. Where’s the scope for doing something magical that grabs the attention of the nation?

This was the question that the Google Re-brief project set out to answer. Eighteen years after the birth of digital advertising, it took some of America’s most seminal ads for Coca-Cola, Volvo, Alka-Seltzer and Avis, re-imagining what they would have been like if they had been made today.

By working with the original creatives and matching them up with funky digital natives, each ad was given the digital treatment. You can view the results for yourself here, but the inconvenient truth is that none of them come close to matching the impact of the originals.

The problem is that as Thomas Wolfe identified, You Can’t Go Home Again. In his book of the same title, which – according to the all knowing Wikipedia – was published posthumously in 1940, the central protagonist George Webber realises:

“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.” 

Re-imagining Digital

Of course the solution doesn’t lie in trying to re-imagine the past. Instead, as Wieden+Kennedy famously put it for Nike, it’s about being able to ‘write the future’.

Two recent examples illustrate this point. The first is ‘The World’s Smallest IKEA Store’.

To demonstrate how IKEA provides solutions for furnishing small living spaces, Ogilvy Action in Dubai recreated an entire IKEA store in a 300 x 250 pixel web banner. It’s an original re-imagining of the banner ad format, which was cleverly targeted at people searching online for studio flats and small apartments.

Another approach, this time by Ogilvy in London, even managed to improve those repulsive Facebook ads that urge women to get rid of their tummy fat. As an extension to Dove’s celebrated ‘real beauty’ campaign, they created an ‘Ad Makeover’ app that allows Australian Facebook users to receive more positive body-image messages such as: “The perfect bum is the one you’re sitting on.” It’s another example of how even the most constrained ad formats can be transformed with some creative thinking.

But as Dan Wieden wisely points out, even in a world that is increasingly focused on digital advertising and social media marketing, television is far from dead. It too is being re-imagined:

“If you go back to that old analogy of television being the campfire at night or something that everybody gathers around. Actually what you’ve got is an interactive campfire now.

 What this business is about is not about selling stuff. This business is about creating strong provocative relationships between good companies and their customers.

People that bemoan the death of the 30 second television commercial probably need to just watch the returns.”

UPDATE: It appears Dove pulled the Facebook Ad campaign after only 3 days. As identified in this article, the reasons for this aren’t surprising. Buying all that Facebook ad space must have been expensive and as the story had already gone global, continuing the campaign would have only served to ratchet up the costs.

You can either view this as success or failure depending on your tendency to view a cup as half full or half empty. It serves to underline the impact an idea can have when it takes off across social media channels.

We can’t go home again. These are ‘the good old days’ of tomorrow. Make the most of it.

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