Advertising and marketing is rooted in persuasion. Encouraging a consumer to make a decision you want them to make, convincing them of a need they were previously unaware of, or simply nudging them to choose your product or service over another. That process of persuading consumers is where the marketing within the broader term of advertising lives. How that persuasion is executed is where the creativity lives.
For years radio hooked us on “jingles” and catchy “slogans”, then television took over mass media and our visual brains were captivated by 30 second vignettes selling us perfect worlds where everything was virtually spotless. In the world where television dominated the advertising landscape advertisers had the delivery method gift wrapped for them, a 22 minute show, 2 commercial breaks each 4 minutes long. Then technology interfered again. Now we had VCR’s, and while most people couldn’t figure out how to stop the clock from flashing 12:00, much less record their favorite shows to be able to fast forward through the commercials, it did change the visual entertainment. The VCR allowed us to rent movies and watch them at our convenience, which in turn eliminated possible screen time available to television and commercials. The history of television and advertising is a story all it’s own and has been covered by many in great detail, but understanding the basic foundation of that story helps us understand where we are today.
As technology advances in communication and entertainment, it brings about a problem for advertisers, how do I reach my audience? While the delivery methods may change and expand, the function does not. Facebook, for example, may have started as a communication tool, but to be the worldwide success it is today, it needed to generate revenue. Twitter, Instagram, Google, etc… they are not hobbies, they are businesses that generate billions of dollars. They may have started as hobbies, or a cool idea, but their success is not measured in Likes, their success is measured in dollars and cents, lots of them. These new forms of communication have once again moved eyes from one medium to another, however, the way we interact with this communication tool has changed, and that is where the art of engagement comes in.
Engagement has now become a primary objective for designers. Engagement is not a mathematical process, nor is it something you can predict on a analytics report, engagement is the creative process by which you captivate the consumers extremely distracted attention. With the barrage of content we are exposed to on a daily basis, only a very small percentage of that content actually captures our attention. What once was a clever jingle or slogan that stuck in your head has been replaced by the challenge of trying to make something go viral. Viral has become the new jingle, it’s the thing everyone is talking about, it’s what’s trending, at least for the next hour. Prior to technology that existed in the palm of our hands, advertisers relied on radio programs and television shows to engage the consumer, the commercials were slipped into that engagement process in an effort to persuade. As the tools we use for communication and content consumption evolve, so must the engagement process. I think what we’re seeing today (2017) is an industry trying to figure out how to use these new tools as a method for effective persuasion, but in my opinion that’s a short-term solution. This is not television assuming control over radio, where the delivery of content remained the same structurally but the context changed, this is an entirely new form of communication that does not have a captive audience. The result of this new form of content delivery will be one where the most effective communicators are those who develop the most compelling methods of engagement.