Lately, we've all been talking about how ad agencies and 'conventional' marketing are losing their relevance. I've sat in countless meetings with clients telling us that print and outdoor are just not working for them anymore and they want to focus their media monies on digital in stead. Yes, it's obvious that people are spending way more time online than they do anywhere else. I learned in a recent Facebook workshop that we consume content worth 124 newspapers every day online. But data shows that content spewed by brands online is suffering too. Savvy consumers are blocking, skipping and dodging ads in every possible way.
This is because the problem isn’t just that media consumption has changed. The problem is how new media has changed consumers. Consumers today are too busy creating and sharing their own content - content that rivals, if not beats, anything advertising agencies could come up with. The layman can produce a sophisticated image/video that's edited, photoshopped and perfectly put together in a matter of minutes. And people are insatiably hungry for this content. As Aaron Sorkin wrote for Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network, “It’s not about seeing hot girls, it’s about seeing hot girls you know.” Think about it, you will happily watch the most unimaginative repetitive stories about your friend’s coffee and shoes every day, but won’t flinch before skipping a web film based on an important emotional insight that an agency took months to make.
Somewhere while ad agencies were too busy with layers of approvals, PO's, processes, PPM's and mind-numbing analysis of unnecessary details, social media asked the consumers to take over. So now it's like we all live in one big advertisement. We start our day looking for things and moments we can publish to attract an audience. And when we can’t find any, we make them up.From the innocuous - “Ohh, this puppy is so cute,” to the deceitful - “Look at my well-toned body,” to the potentially dangerous - “Here I’m sitting on a rooftop with my feet dangling off the ledge,” everything is an opportunity to advertise and everyone is selling a lifestyle of perfect fashion, food, fitness, travel, parties, etc.
The impact of this is disturbing – not just on advertising – but on society itself. And somewhere, if you go back in time to how this kind of content became desirable in the first place, all perpetrators of pop-culture and media - including advertisers - are responsible. So, as a way to save ourselves, while saving everyone, can brands step in and be the voice of reality in this deluded world? Can we turn the lens the other way around and end this charade that we may have started? Where all the world’s a perfect advertisement, can a throwback to reality be our saving grace? Some brands have started on this journey lately. Here’s my attempt:
The World According to Instagram
I've seen the world on Instagram
and it's a happy place.
For starters, everyone is pretty
Well, rich enough to travel the world at least.
Coffee on point.
Nature on fleek.
Yoga. Bae. Outfit of the Day.
People love their friends deeply
and their pets more.
Fa-- err, scratch that.
Everyone is doing so well.
I can't help but keep looking.
First thing every morning
and the last thing every night.
And sometimes when I get a solitary moment during the day.
Okay, make that a lot of times.
Okay fine, make that all the time.
But, please don't bother me,
I'm busy seeing the world.
And then I slip into wondering
When did we get so adept
at engineering our own image?
Was there some kind of finishing course
on filters and angles and composition that I missed?
Aren't these the same people
that raged against advertisers for photoshopping images?
Silly girl, I laugh quietly at myself,
Don't you know -
A distorted portrayal of reality is ok
as long as the consumers are the distorters themselves.
As long as its "user-generated," they say.
We've all entered an unspoken agreement.
It's not a bluff, if no one calls it out.
It's not a lie, if no one tells the truth.
So let's go back to perfect pouts
and flawless fidget-spinning.
Because I've seen the world on Instagram.
And it's all I'll ever need.