Madison Avenue aims to highjack the social-media craze, retargeting print- and television-advertising campaigns toward viral crowd-sourcing, product placements and guerrilla promotions.
The era of "big advertising" is over, with most traditional placements aiming instead to leverage social-media online to create buzz in the real world--from flash mobs to sticker bombs to corporate-sponsored graffiti.
Madison Avenue's major advertising campaigns used to include full-page print ads and 30-second TV commercials, but no more, according to Washington University's Olin School of Business. In their place, we will see an increase in corporate-sponsored viral Internet campaigns, crowd-sourcing, product placements, and guerrilla promotions that are predicted to dominate advertising in 2012.
Print and TV advertising is on the way out, according to Seethu Seetharaman, a professor of marketing at Olin Business School of Washington University in St. Louis.
The main reason, according to WU's marketing expert, is that traditional ads are no longer effective, given the clutter of competing methods of content delivery over the Internet. Contributing to the problem with these traditional ads is the fact that viewers can merely skip over them by turning the page in print, or skip the ads in videos using the fast-forward on their digital recorders. Hangers-on to this type of traditional advertising are choosing new venues with captive audiences, such as ads between movie trailers at the theater and with product placements in the movie itself. Product placements are not new; they date back to the Marx Brothers. However, they are currently experiencing a resurgence that includes nontraditional media--from sitcoms to video games.
"One of those few opportunities [for a captive audience] is being stuck in a dark auditorium, consuming entertainment, having no choice of whitening out a brand on screen, or using a video recorder to fast-forward," said Washington University professor Seethu Seetharaman.
For advertisers who have already moved beyond traditional commercials, the Internet has become the venue of choice. By hijacking the social-media and crowd-sourcing craze, these nontraditional advertisers are seeking to turn the Internet into a product-promotional jamboree.
Take, for instance, BlendTec's popular "Will it Blend?" campaign on YouTube, which was originally designed for TV. By retargeting its splashy "chef" blending iPads and other coveted devices, BlendTec has consistently attracted millions of viewers (over 13 million have viewed the iPad's destruction). By blending social-media with its YouTube videos, an increasing number of traditional television advertisers are enlisting crowd-sourced voyeurs of all persuasions.
"Crowd-sourcing is only going to increase," said Seetharaman, who cited Threadless and the Huffington Post as bleeding-edge examples of a future where products will be designed by consumers, voted on by consumers, then produced to their specifications by professionals who then reap the profits. For instance, on Threadless, the t-shirts are designed by anybody with an idea, voted on by visitors to the Website, and the most popular designs are then produced and sold online. Likewise, "The Huffington Post," which was founded as an outlet for commentators frustrated with their lack of exposure on major media sites, but which was subsequently acquired by one of those major media sites (AOL) for over $300 million.
"This product-development model has already moved to information markets like 'The Huffington Post,' and is now moving to high-ticket products such as furniture and cars," said Seetharaman.
Another even more blatant example of hijacked crowd-sourcing is T-Mobile's Flash Mob campaign, which at first glance appears to support "grassroots" movements, but whose slick choreographed videos compare favorably to old-school TV-ads retread for the Internet