Guest Column: The future of advertising

It’s a rare and beautiful thing these days, the truth. We’re living in a world where echo chambers and ‘what we want to believe’ determines our truth of the day. With distrust becoming the new normal, consumers are becoming masters of the art of calling bullshit, especially when it comes to brand claims, stories and advertising. The age of the naïve wide-eyed bambi-in-the-woods consumer is well and truly over. In the post-truth world, ideas like honesty, authenticity, trust will be key to earning consumer respect.

Some brands are leading the way, and here’s a few learnings from them on what ‘truthful’ advertising means:

Showing off that thing you can *undeniably* do well

Forget ‘hopes, dreams, desires’, the straight talk about great products is what people want. Brands will need to make sure they have a product that’s so compelling that its story is undeniably great. Advertising’s role would be to tell people about it in a way that they listen. 

After years of trying to sell ‘happiness’ in a bottle with not-so-great results, Coca-Cola went back to selling its undeniable product truth – great taste – with its new advertising inviting consumers to ‘taste the feeling’. In fact, it’s very latest product Coke Zero Sugar (which is a big success) eschews the typical ‘lifestyle’ advertising we’ve seen associated with zero calorie drinks and goes the old-school taste-tests way. All while informing consumers not to believe it until they taste it for themselves. 

Authentic self v/s piggybacking on what’s ‘cool’ or trending

Brands will need to know their place in the world rather than trying to awkwardly ‘fit in’. Know what you can authentically represent and the value that you can bring and tell those stories.

Clearasil attempted to be cool by trying to make memes about acne but what it ended up being was straight up cringeworthy. That’s when they decided to be honest about the fact that it’s a company run by skincare experts not pop-culture experts. With the new ‘We know acne, we don’t know teens’ campaign they captivated their teenage audience with refreshingly honest and entertaining communication.

Real people have flaws and the unrealistic ideals of perfection seen in advertising only serves to create distrust in the brand. Advertising will need to embrace and celebrate the ‘real’ v/s the fake.

Target’s latest swimwear collection focused on body positivity and showcased completely untouched models across sizes and shapes. It was a bold move, redefining beauty as ‘flawsome’ instead of the unattainable ideal that industry has peddled for decades.

Dropping the act

And finally, we know interruptive advertising sucks, but what sucks more is deceit. Consumers want choice and transparency when it comes to advertising. The moral of the story–in the years ahead, honesty is likely to be the most profitable policy for advertising.

The author is the chief strategy officer at ScoopWhoop Media. The views expressed are personal and may not subscribe to them.


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