“Nothing is original.” Even if you’re not familiar with the famous quote by American independent filmmaker Jim Jarmusch this truism still feels true. Some of our favorite work in 2017 resounds, not for its completely-original-never-seen-before-brand-new big idea, but rather the way it takes an old idea, something we’ve seen 1,000 times before, and shows it to us in a new light. Below are just a few examples, past and present, of our favorite advertising trends we expect to see again in 2018.
Have you read Patagonia’s blog yet? If you haven't, chances are you’ve still heard of it. By now everyone knows that company blogs are for more than just pitching new products–the internet equivalent of the infomercial. Blogs are where companies go to engage and inspire their customers without exhausting them with endless hard sells. Did you know this trend actually predates blogging, even the internet? “Advertorials,” or editorial advertising date back to the early 1900’s when brands ran long form copy with an editorial edge in newspapers and magazine. Think Cadillac’s “The Penalty of Leadership.” Contrary to common wisdom modern audiences actually want to hear from brands, but they’re looking for more than endless distractions. Sometimes in our media saturated environment it’s good to decompress and give the audience time to breath. In the attention economy the most interesting and engaging content still has room to be boring, like 1,000 word blog posts about climate change. And who said copywriting is dead?
- Double Meaning (Metaphor, Simile, Pun, Double Entendre)
The pun is intended. Quick, simple to decode visual metaphors are the stock-and-trade of modern print advertising. They communicate complex ideas that would take paragraphs to describe with copy, they improve message retention and can increase the persuasive power of that message. And it's not just a print phenomenon, this commercial from Nissan personifies the weaker performance of a competitors engine with actual lazy horses. Get it? Relying entirely on a strong visual may be a fairly recent trend in the long history of advertising but even in the days of long-form copy there are a few stand out examples: take for instance Gilette’s safety razor poster from 1905. It’s a small headline up top, two logos with the tagline on bottom, and one giant painting of a shaving baby. Stylistically it’s certainly a product of its time but the big idea still feels fresh today. In our global economy there is a strong desire for advertisers to craft messages that work in more than one market and relying on strong communicative visuals with little copy to translate, visual metaphor is a trend that's here to stay.
- Absurdism / Surrealism
Oddvertising has been the golden ticket to a golden pencil at least as long as Old Spices “Man your man could smell like” has been in the cultural zeitgeist. Using visual shock to break through the visual noise of our modern day isn’t as new as you would think. Although pretty dark, Mr. Edison decided to electrocute an elephant named Topsy to prove his point about a safer current. Although we certainly don’t condone the killing of circus animals–or any animals for that matter–it certainly was a visual and literal shock that couldn’t be ignored. And further proves the point that Thomas Edison was kind of a jerk. Oddvertising success in the last decade was surly due in part to a correlating trend toward shorter, punchier spots on the frontiers of Youtube. Now that advertisers are opening back up to longer spots, and more multimedia experiences, it could be wise to say the fad is over, but it isn’t. With strange new technology on the horizon, somebody out there is will try and shock the crap out of you with it.
- Visual Poetry
This is just a fancy way of describing the use of typography as an image. Like a visual metaphor having your type do more than one job at a time packs the maximum amount of communication into as little information as possible. While modern technology has made manipulating type incredibly simple, advertisers have been using typography in interesting and innovative ways from the very beginning. In 1892 Kodak used their name in an ad to create a box around the copy, framing it like a picture.This recent example from Lyft has the copy work as both the headline and the visual. Typography is the art of making copy look good, visual poetry takes it one step further and makes how it looks as meaningful as what it says. So long as copy is a part of advertising, beautiful, illuminating typography will be too.
- The Greater Good
Probono and nonprofit clients are a popular way for agencies to flex their creative muscles and demonstrate the informative power of advertising when it’s not in service of their capitalist overlords. The Ad Council has been churning out great public service content since they started selling war bonds in 1942. More recently we’ve seen big brand names throwing their hat into the public service game. Procter and Gamble spent a whole two minute commercial–not selling hand lotion–but making a direct emotional appeal to the audience to “talk about bias.” And that was it. The commercial was a powerful addition to their line up of recent “Thanks Mom” series of commercials. As consumers become increasingly concerned about the impact of their consumption they want to feel reassured by brands that they too care about more than their own bottom line.
For our last trend this isn’t actually about advertising itself but rather how we put our messages in front of an audience. Ads are, even at their very best, an aside, an interruption, a break in the regular flow of attention. Every time advertisers find an innovative way to grab their audiences attention, the audience finds another way to wrestle it away again. First the remote and then Tivo let you skip commercials, now Adblocker exercises pesky banner ads and Youtube preroll. For every sort of advertising there’s a way to opt out. Giving users the option, up front and in clear concise language (not legalize), to agree to targeted ads, to agree to seeing any ads at all, is–in our humble opinions–a positive step in the right direction.
We look forward to seeing where the industry takes us in 2018. And remember, as Jim Jarmusch said, “Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to.””