Our Predictions for 2009




We wanted to write a post that discussed what was going to be big in 2009 in the world of Advertising and we came to realise that whatever we predicted would be something that’s already been said years past.

We could say, for example, that mobile’s going to be huge this year, and it probably is, but let’s face it that’s been said before. We could also say that social networking’s going to hit a new level and that newspapers are going to struggle to survive; been said hasn’t it?

So, we decided we’d go deeper and talk about where we’re at in terms of how we’re interacting with each other and what implications we think that this is going to have.

There’s a scientific theorist, I forget the name, who reckons that developments in the world of technology are moving faster than our perception of time. This means that technologies are moving so quickly that before we know it literally any conceivable platform could be available to us. This means that possibilities for digital communication are becoming increasingly vast and potential-filled.

As technology develops this will ensue a widening communicative web and a continuation of a ‘never be alone’ attitude. This we can be sure of. A desire to never be alone is what we believe will be a reoccurring theme in months and years to come. In fact a whole new language has risen out of the need to constantly indulge in updating the virtual world of our status. Whether it’s visual, verbal or aural, we’re Twittering, Facebooking, Flikring, YouTubing incessantly to ensure we stay digitally relevant.

Interestingly, in the Western world, we’ve become increasingly insular in the ‘real world’. There was a time (undeniably a long time before we graced this world with our presence) when we would pass strangers in the street, say hello, have a chat and go on with our day. Now, this happens in a virtual world, we have actually become friendly again, except this time it’s not happening in a tangible domain.


As Joel has already said, one of the things that we feel will come to fruition in a massive way in the coming year will be the rising desire of many to let their friends, and the wider world, know exactly what they’re doing throughout their days, no matter how mundane or superfluous. The rise and rise of Facebook has contributed to this massively, with 3 even marketing a phone entirely around the platform and its status updates over the past few weeks –

Steve has nothing better to do...

Steve has nothing better to do...

Who is Steve? And why do I care that he’s cooking pork chops? And why should anyone care for that matter? But in truth, it’s not about anyone else, it’s about the person updating their status, their desire to shout out into what is increasingly becoming a void, in which people have such a proliferation of friendships and acquaintances that each invariably suffers as the weight of the many pushes down on the few. Technology has allowed us to stay in touch with such a huge number of people that invariably most individual relationships suffer – mobile phones and the internet began our addiction to widespread, reduced communication, and since then the banner has been passed to text messaging and MSN, through blogging, and now down to Twitter and Facebook statuses, all reaching an increasing number of people whilst becoming less and less personal. Without wanting to sound too gloomy or get too Foucaultian, it seems that all of this digital isolationism is a natural step forward(?) for a society that has systematically destroyed its places of congregation and group activity in favour of increasingly panopticised institutions and widespread visibility.

So what will this mean for advertising? Well I’m sure many will follow the crowd, and some may even do it incredibly well (imagine, for example, if Nike sponsored a daily videoblog filmed by Cristiano Ronaldo, that was less about what he thinks than what the life of a Premiership footballer is really like, showing training, meetings, events etc. – basically Guy Ritchie’s Take it to the NEXT LEVEL taken, well, to the next level). But I think at least one brand will buck the trend, and be incredibly successful for it, saying through a campaign ‘Look, you could be sitting in your kitchen, crying about the fact no-one loves you into your frying pan full of pork chops, or you could actually get out there and reclaim your friendships – through our products obviously.’ I’m not talking here about the widespread “impossibly large group of people performing a choreographed activity” type of ads that have been everywhere recently (which, as Iain Tate has pointed out, seem to rely overly heavily on metaphor and far too little on real life possibilities), but more about smaller displays of intimacy with those people who really matter. What about an M&S campaign focussing on the joys of cooking food for other people? David Jason talked about his friends asking for a recipe, but why not go one further and focus on the dinner party itself? Relatively cheap group activity will be enormous in the months ahead, and I’m sure many are gearing up to pitch themselves at this level right now (if the government hadn’t banned any sort of social message in alcohol ads, you can rest assured Diageo would be absolutely loving the recession).

As for mobile, like Joel said, every year someone seems to say ‘this is the year’, and it invariably isn’t. Again, I think this will be the case (Android may solve this “problem” in the future, but widespread industry takeup is a long way off yet). The problem with mobile, for me, is that as a platform is just too intensely personal for people to accept the intrusion of widespread advertising – your phone isn’t just an object, it is a manifestation of your voice projected anywhere, all of your social connections rolled into a metal casing, and increasingly, your guide, your plaything and internet connection. In essence, your mobile phone is not an outside object, it is a part of you (anyone who has ever lost their mobile will know the sense of loss it brings about – you are not whole without it, it is your passport into the “real” world, what makes you complete (which makes you wonder if you ever were in the first place)). In its own way, your mobile is more you than you are yourself, which means that having an advert sent through your phone feels like it’s being beamed directly, and unavoidably, into your brain. Where advertisers will succeed will be by providing branded content for phones, such as games like the Carling iPint and Lucasarts’ lightsaber application advertising The Force Unleashed. However, real standout in this area will take serious investment and faith, and as the sight of an iPhone becomes less and less rare, novelty value will be worth less and less, and so actual use value will come to the fore to ensure repeated, long term use (which will in turn create stronger relationships between consumers and brands). How about a Reebok branded, tailored, daily workout plan updated automatically for you that works in tandem with your phone’s GPS receiver to reward you based on how far you run with Reebok discount vouchers? Or a Shell application that, working through your GPS receiver again, would display petrol prices at surrounding garages and routes to get to them, even if they weren’t Shell? The possibilities are endless…

Obama in Burnout 3 (Xbox 360)

Obama in Burnout 3 (Xbox 360)

My other prediction is that in-game advertising will also take off hugely this year – with games set to become the largest entertainment medium, having eclipsed Hollywood in recent years, HD graphics becoming so sharp and the majority of consoles being hooked up to home networks, the chance for advertisers to get a hold on this new space should be far too enticing to turn down (especially if they’re aiming their goods at guys under 40). The Obama campaign was at it a few months ago, and I’m sure many will follow suit. Reaching people in their homes will become paramount as belts are tightened – TV may provide an increasing ROI as media budgets are slashed and demand falls (especially if budgets are kept low without compromising creativity, with cases in point being Saatchi’s latest T-Mobile ad and Fallon’s latest Glass and a Half Full Production), and internet advertising may do the same (although as many consider it vastly overpriced in the first place, this may provide scant consolation). Logos may become more prominent on packaging, and offers to encourage brand loyalty will proliferate (50p off your next pack of Old El Paso tortillas with this coupon etc.). Overall this coming year will be about content, invention and the slow game – finance directors will have to trust that investment now, which may not produce immediate results, will lead to real gains in the future, especially when the market sets itself to rights again.


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