October 14, 2011

Origins Of Postcoherent Advertising

A few days ago we discussed the idea of "postcoherent" advertising, i.e., advertising that has evolved to the point that it is baffling to viewers.

I commented that I thought "postcoherence" was a trend in advertising, and several readers seemed to agree.

It seems remarkable that an industry that is supposed to be all about communication could  grow to be so effete that people can't even understand what we're trying to say. I was trying to think how we got to this point.

I can think of a few major influences.

1. The dotcom bubble: In the late 90's, there appeared an era of unrestrained creative self-indulgence. The advertising of the time seemed to follow a pattern -- 27 seconds of something bizarre (e.g., shooting gerbils out of a cannon) followed by 3 seconds of logo. The philosophy behind this type of advertising was "quick branding" -- it really didn't matter what people thought of you just so long as they recognized your brand. When the bubble burst and 98% of the brilliant dotcom ideas exploded, not all lessons were learned.

2. The talent drain: New media are draining off some of the talented people who used to go into advertising. Advertising used to be 2nd or 3rd choice for talented created people, now it is 3rd or 4th choice. We still have some wonderfully talented creative people. But the average level of talent has fallen off.

3. Form fatigue: After a while, all forms of communication lose steam and get worn out. You can see it with music. In my lifetime I've seen a half dozen or more forms of pop music peak and then run out of steam. When a style has been exhausted, new forms need to be tried. Sometimes these new forms break through. Most often they don't. Advertising has a tendency to be self-referential and follow certain tried-and-true forms. In order to break out of these traditional patterns, sometimes some milk gets spilled.

4. Sometimes it works: The strange thing is that once in a while one of these bewildering, incoherent advertising efforts works. I can remember seeing "Go Daddy" advertising the first few times and having absolutely no idea what they did or what they were talking about. And yet they seem to have put together the right combination of prurience, bad taste and plain ol' stupidity to create success. Sometimes crazy things happen.

No comments: