That this question is still being asked in 2020 is kind of maddening, when the evidence in favour of mass-market creativity is so plentiful, clear, and compelling.
Sharp, Binet & Field have been banging on long enough for us to know by now how brands are built. Data-powered targeting certainly has a big role to play in aiding conversion, but first you’ve got to make a brand distinctive and memorable with as many people as possible.
There’s a reason campaigns which aim for fame are most effective of all: everyone sees the same ad, knows that everyone else has seen it, and wants to talk about it. This shared understanding of what a brand means underpins Kevin Simler’s theory of ‘cultural imprinting’: if everyone is to buy into the same idea of a brand’s place in culture, it simply can’t be achieved on a personalised one-to-one basis.
And while marketers have been lured by the promised efficiencies of targeted digital, it’s the costly signalling of media like TV, ‘the waste’, which is the bit that works, because it demonstrates utmost confidence in your brand. Digital is cheap but looks it.
On the flipside, the real waste in ad tech over the last decade has been eye-watering, with billions of dollars lost to fraud, and 80% of marketers planning to stop investment in personalisation due to lack of ROI and data management woes.
But brands are waking up just as TV’s unrivalled reach is eroding, as Ebiquity’s latest research shows, with attention and culture increasingly scattered and shattered over a myriad of channels and platforms. That makes reaching huge audiences a lot harder.
So, the question I ask myself every day really isn’t whether mass-market creativity will make a comeback. It’s how. And that will take all of our efforts as an industry to answer.