Technology strategist Jonathan Yarmis wrote a very insightful article about Facebook for Business Week where he concisely defines the challenge modern agencies face in today’s socially networked world. He boils the issue down to credibility: advertising is no longer a trusted channel, but peer opinion is. And with the extensive adoption of social networks, peer opinions spreads exponentially further and faster.
While none of this is earth-shattering news to anyone who’s paid even the slightest attention, it is a terrifically focused distillation of the problem. This is incredibly valuable if you too believe in Charles Kettering’s adage “a problem well stated is a problem half solved.”
It also demonstrates the need for the Brand Missions we advocate at Element 79; when opinion enjoys mass channels that are often better targeted than mass commercial messages, savvy marketers need to create ideas that can travel. Advertising may not be as trusted as it once was, but it has lost none of its capacity to generate interest or capture consumer imaginations. When it inspires and engages, consumers respond and it influences opinion. The problem isn’t advertising, it’s BAD advertising. When the net swims in a Brandfill of 3.6 trillion banner ads, it’s a safe bet that the overwhelming majority of those are hideously bad. Or at least wasteful. And useless.
In the environment Yarmis outlines, smart advertisers focus on engagement and spreadability. When messages become missions, they can travel further and so have a far greater likelihood of entering those vast, vital, pre-qualified social network markets.
Brand Missions only thrive when shared. At their best, they place the words in all of those mouths, driving critical peer recommendation.
Which is why “advertising” must be considered a verb.