The death of advertising requires a creative resurrection.
Media have long heard the mantra “change or die,” and veteran ad executive Essex, the CEO of Tribeca Enterprises, argues that advertising as we know it is already in its death throes, a victim of the digital technology that it has yet to master. With no apparent irony but maybe some hyperbole, the author hails the advent of “ad blocking, which I have come to regard, heretically, as the greatest thing that has ever happened to the advertising industry.” Why? Because it has forced some companies and those charged with the promotion of their products to acknowledge and even embrace the paradigm shift, to recognize that consumers can now bypass anything that doesn’t offer value. Some of the results that he praises seem visionary. “The incandescent genius of Lego’s adventure in antiadvertising” is how Essex praises The Lego Movie, a critically hailed, crowd-pleasing release that found people paying to see what was essentially an extended ad for the toy company’s brand. Not only did Lego increase sales; the movie itself made money, a reversal of the sort of expenditure that promotion represents. Essex also praises the branding of American Girl, a doll series that has become so much more; the stores themselves are moneymaking promotions for the brand, where they have created their own context for the content: “I realized that the American Girl brand had achieved this stranglehold on my daughter’s imagination without her ever seeing so much as a single traditional ad for the company. And yet every inch of the store and its attendant content was advertising.” Then there’s New York’s popular Citi Bike kiosk program, “a massive, historic success and a game changer in terms of reinventing advertising,” launched at least in part because of “the serendipity in the name Citi Bike. After all, it was just two letters away from Citibank.”
As Essex succinctly demonstrates, since consumers will continue to buy and companies still have large budgets to promote, ingenuity can find a way to promote value.