Our theme for this issue is "Ads Gone Wild," and if that brings to mind a certain cheesy, direct mail video, sorry about that. But the title is apt, because in advertising right now, it's almost starting to feel as if spring break has arrived and suddenly, anything goes. Commercials continue to get wilder and more strange (as evidenced by the "oddvertising" featured in this issue). Meanwhile, the Web is creating all kinds of opportunities for marketers to experiment with viral mischief and pranks. There's also a sense that advertising is becoming harder to control in terms of where it ends up—particularly now that YouTube can turn any ad into a pop-culture phenomenon overnight (and that may or may not be a positive thing, depending on whether your ad is passed around because it's so good or because it's so hilariously awful). YouTube and other video hosting sites also provide more opportunities for homemade or mock ads, which can, at times, make it feel as if advertising is being overrun by teenagers out to raise a little hell.
In this "wild at spring break" analogy, one would expect that clients would end up playing the role of the worried parents, urging caution or trying to keep their kids (i.e. the brands) locked up safe at home. But increasingly, clients—including some of the bigger ones—are saying to their agencies, "Let's get a little crazy." Because more and more of these clients have begun to grasp that it's a bold new world out there, and the old marketing rules don't necessarily apply anymore. There's no safety for brands in staying home and playing it safe; if you want to be in the mix, you've got to join the party.
In theory, creative people should be thrilled at this "gone-wild" environment, because it's one that demands and rewards constant creativity. And it's one in which the "rules" that creatives used to complain about are no longer as much of a hindrance. And yet, a number of creative people you talk to feel a tiny bit threatened by what's going on. Some are concerned that their expertise in making 30-second commercials and print ads may be devalued in this diversified new landscape. Others are concerned—and rightly so—that there may be too much of a premium placed on being "different" and "new," and not enough on being "good."
The challenge for agencies and their creatives, then, may be in maintaining a sense of balance and sanity amid the madness. That's something that a lot of agencies failed to do in the dot-com era. That, too, was a period in which clients said, "Let's go wild," and agencies answered, "Okay, fine." And it didn't turn out so well for either side.
This time around, maybe agencies can help lead the charge into the new, while also being the voice of reason. So that when clients ask for "oddvertising" that's offbeat and quirky enough to stand out in this noisy landscape, the best creatives will, hopefully, respond with work that manages to be as smart and relevant as it is delightfully weird. And, at the same time, let's hope creatives are the ones who gently remind clients that just because new media is hot, it doesn't mean old media is obsolete. And maybe, too, they'll be the ones to point out that an Internet hoax or prank can be fun and effective, but it has to be done smartly and carefully, so as not to anger the very people you're trying to engage.
Those are just a few of the balancing acts that creatives may have to pull off, and it won't necessarily be easy. Because when you're partying hard on spring break, one of the first things to go is ?your balance.
Enjoy the issue.
— Warren Berger, Editor
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