“The only thing I know is that I know nothing.”
This famous phrase from Socrates could perfectly summarise the reality that this pandemic has uncovered. Uncertainty has been the main actor for months, creating a situation that escapes all measurement tools and trend hunters, giving rise to what is called the new normal or even a new world for some.
But what have we learned about our industry in this new world? (I’ve always been an optimist.)
Maybe that this global situation has finally forced us to understand our priorities while uncovering the dark reality of an obsolete advertising industry, where egos of all sizes have been hidden for years.
Finally, no one doubts that brands must have a purpose and communicate beyond the benefits of their products. And we know now that it’s much better to do, than to say.
We all finally understand that our competition is not just those who sell products like ours and above all we understand that we no longer communicate to consumers but to audiences.
Brands finally know that success isn’t measured only by the money they earn but by their ability to positively impact people's lives.
And now we fully understand that the best way to predict the future is to create it. No more being reactive to what is happening but being more proactive to create the best possible world or at least our best possible version of it.
Time and attention
It also seems that the time has finally come to understand that communication is the ultimate challenge for winning people's attention.
And there is no greater global insight than the fact that each person, in every corner of the world, only has 24-hours a day … Of which eight hours are (or should be) to sleep, eight hours to work (if you work in the communication industry you’re probably laughing) and eight hours of leisure (of which three are for meals). And our mission in communication is to gain a slice of that time.
What is clear is that the Mad-Menian vision of creating needs no longer works.
It is in that war for attention that we compete not only against other products but against TikTok, WhatsApp, Instagram, memes, Netflix, Amazon, and even against that funny video of some singing dogs or that beautiful bird that flies across our window every day.
Now we understand (or we should) that we shouldn’t fight against it, but instead we must assess how to integrate our brand and our message into those other formats in an organic way and harness our own channels by creating relevant content to reach our audience more effectively.
The truth is out there
While our industry spends time analyzing data, identifying trends and looking for new territories to connect with people, a video suddenly appears with a guy from Idaho on a longboard listening to Dreams by Fleetwood Mac and gets more than 100 million views, manages to put the group at number one in reproductions on Spotify and manages to become a global trend creating a whole legion of imitators.
Welcome to the real world amigos.
We’ve lost a lot of time sitting in our beautiful offices only to end up realizing that, as they said in The X Files, the truth is out there.
We finally understand that in this fight to gain a little audience time, we must understand people and know what they really care about. And for this we must listen to culture, know what is really happening "out there" and what issues are relevant to people. And maybe, one of those concerns is not knowing that there is a new vanilla flavored drink but perhaps that this new drink has more sustainable packaging.
We must stop waiting for a brief because the most important brief is what’s happening out there.
Back to basics
Now we really understand that this is a game of confidence and not just persuasion. The audience's relationship with brands is like any relationship: you want them to listen to you, you want them to take care of you, to make you laugh, to advise you, to help you be a better person. You want to know that they will never let you down. Even more so now that we understand the importance of closeness even though there is space between us.
Brands must be consistent, real and human. They must be able to reinvent themselves without losing their essence, stop categorizing people and start talking to them.
Agencies have learned the need to be more agile, less endogamous, with less vertical and much more inclusive structures.
We understand the importance of innovation in a broader sense and we are much more humble. We know that we need to keep learning because the world is changing by the minute.
Even governments have realized that a health crisis can lead to a political crisis, a social crisis and an emotional crisis. All of this is enhanced by a communication crisis where neither the media nor governments have been able to explain to people what is happening because they lack a good communication strategy or clear plan to follow.
And it seems that they have understood that the lack of credibility and connection with people is more real than ever.
By the way... I wonder if we could ever have a brand leading a country? Why not? A Love Brand connects, helps, influences and inspires people. That is precisely what we should expect from a government and that should be our most important KPI.
The last dance
It would be great if everything I’ve said is true, but who am I to be sure if all I know is that I know nothing. What is clear is that the moment we put on our masks, was the same moment we took our masks off. Now is the time to become the agencies we need to be, the brands we want to become and even the governments we aspire to have. It is sad that we’ve had to learn with such heavy blows but the important thing is not to make the same mistakes again and always look forward (without forgetting the past).
And while the whole world is looking for a vaccine* against the pandemic, the pandemic has been a vaccine for our beloved industry... A vaccine against ourselves.
If you skipped straight here, you’re lazy but in luck!
Here’s a playlist that sums up the article - Songs for a New World:
Tears for fears “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”
Morrissey “Everyday Is Like Sunday”
Propellerheads “History Repeating”
Chris Isaak “Wicked Game”
Keane “This is the Last Time”
Radiohead “No Surprises”
The Cure “Boys Don’t Cry”
Tame Impala “The Less I Know The Better”
Depeche Mode “People Are People”
Duran Duran “Ordinary World”
New Order “Regret”
The Strokes “You Only Live Once”
Scorpions “Wind Of Change”
Muse “New Born”
Foo Fighters “Learn To Fly”
Pearl Jam “Better Man”
Smashing Pumpkins “Today”
MGMT “Time To Pretend”
Arcade Fire “Put Your Money On Me”
Suede “Beautiful Ones”
Stereophonics “Have A Nice Day”