This past Monday I was invited to a cocktail reception for the new Brandcenter at Virginia Commonwealth University. The VCU Brandcenter, until recently called the VCU Adcenter, is a graduate program in marketing communications. What makes the program unique is its approach. It has structured its curricula to reflect a marketing communication vision that ad agencies have been paying lip service to forever, but never really accomplishing - organically integrating the business and strategy bits with the creative and interactive bits. Led by ex-Ogilvy Chief Creative Officer Rick Boyko, the program plans on expanding its online/digital focus by adding a full-fledged interactive track in the fall semester.
In a conversation with a recent graduate of the program though, I got the sense that her job search in New York was turning out be a rude awakening. Because despite the fact that most of the advertising behemoths have interactive capabilities, these are generally balkanized organizations with no real seat at the grown-ups table.
It's been a little over a decade that agencies have been trying to figure this out. In all of the time since then, despite the multiple iterations of organization charts, agencies have never quite figured out the integration. Most likely because the people at the top still see interactive as banner ads, websites, and unequal to "legitimate" advertising.
Perhaps nothing articulates this as clearly as Allen Rosenshine's acceptance remarks at his Advertising Hall of Fame induction. This Chairman Emeritus of BBDO who has been called one of the 100 most influential people of 20th century advertising said, "Beware those who would have us believe that advertising has become irrelevant. It always was, and always will be, as relevant as we make it. The geeks will not destroy us. Only we can do that." In an interview with Ad Age's Rance Crain, Rosenshine added: "The internet becomes and is a brilliant resource for information. It isn't branding because it doesn't have the capacity to deliver the emotional content of branding."
Hmmmm. I don't know how much time Mr. Rosenshine has spent on the Internet in the the past ten years, but cumulatively, consumers have been spending hours online with compelling creative executions from brands like Audi, Dove, and Toyota, to name a few. So, if he really wants to go head to head, here's the choice for brands: create a rich, interactive, online experience that clearly articulates your brand, gives users value in the form of content or entertainment, and allows them to interact and engage in a dialog with you and with each other; or broadcast a :30 spot that most likely will be Tivo-ed out of the programming. Want to think about it?
In a piece about the Brandcenter in Creativity Magazine this past January, editor Teressa Iezzi quoted TBWA's Lee Clow: “Brands today cannot be sustained by what in the past has been called advertising…everything a brand does that connects to the consumer is media, is brand communication. If orchestrating the art of all those media conversations isn’t advertising, then perhaps the creativity of what we’ll do in the future needs a new name.”
Bravo, Brandcenter and lookout Madison Avenue, here come the geeks.
advertising, Allen Rosenshine,BBDO, Creativity Magazine,Interactive Technology, Lee Clow, marketing, Rick Boyko, TBWA, VCU Brandcenter