Busting down barriers and breaking the rules may not work so well if you’re a doctor or lawyer. So welcome to the world of advertising and creative production, the perfect place for people who don’t care for or play by the rules. High quality, authenticity, and wickedly unorthodox content is achieved by pushing toward, and through, the edges of what has already come before.
In our quest to be advertising pioneers, we always want to push that envelope, toe that line, blaze that trail, all while being truthful and honest in order to get our brand message across. So how taboo does content really need to be in order to get people talking, to raise eyebrows, and invoke change?
Marketers and creatives alike have found that being unapologetically honest - a perfect ingredient for being, and breaking, taboo - is not only good for change, but also good for business. It sells more products and creates a base of loyal brand advocates. More importantly, they get the conversation going about important, human topics such as menstruation, sexual activity, erectile dysfunction, and race that have otherwise been seen as inappropriate or just plain scary to talk about.
One could be forgiven, or at least, definitely understood, if they awoke in recent weeks from a 100 year coma and thought not a lot had changed.
It’s appalling that in 2019, especially February, which is the month we celebrate and honor black Americans for their culture, contributions, and creative endeavors, that the news has been smattered with story after story about blackface. From elected politicians to high-fashion sweaters, it seems as though we can’t flip on a news station or scroll through a news site without seeing a case of blackface.
Make no mistake: The 2020 presidential campaign, already kicking into gear, will take place in an unprecedented media and engagement marketing environment of in-your-face, unfiltered (and often cringe-worthy) immediacy. Political live-streaming as a communication tool could not only bestow authenticity to an otherwise stale and scripted primary process, but it may also result in digital-savvy candidates vaulting over everyone else.
Think Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, only with people who want to be the Leader of the Free World, poor lighting, and fewer laughs.
One Mad Hit Juice Box. V’Nilla Cookies & Milk. Whip’d Strawberry. Carnival Crunch. Twirly Pop. Could these be new ice cream flavors from Ben & Jerry’s? Or Kellogg cereals? Nope. They are flavors of E-Juice, also known as smoke juice or E-liquid, a nicotine-based liquid used in electronic cigarettes and personal vaporizers.
The youngest crop of teenagers - known as Generation Z and born between 1996 and 2010 - represents perhaps one of the most complex and misunderstood customers in advertising history. A highly mobile, social media-fluent, and socially conscious generation of multitaskers, they are expected to account for 40% of all consumers by 2020 with the potential to wield billions in buying power, making them a larger and more diverse cohort than Baby Boomers or Millennials.
Summer was on sale again in May at Southwest Airlines, whose smiling pilots and flight attendants offered one-way fares as low as $49 as part of its annual, multi-platform "Transfarency" marketing campaign. For decades, Southwest Airlines led the nation’s domestic carriers as one of the most aggressive advertisers, with a $218MM advertising budget in 2015. Its front-facing public relations and brand strategy projected an image of the nation’s most consumer-friendly airline with a family-style employee culture. The investment paid off with good press and high returns.
Until it didn’t.
Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” remains a standout after more than 14 years. By deconstructing beauty norms at a time when few women considered themselves beautiful according to modern standards (in other words, skinny, young, and blemish-free), the personal care brand created what Ad Age considers the No. 1 campaign of the 21st century. A successful brand campaign such as this may look effortless, but it’s the product of skilled marketing expertise, good strategic judgement, and boundless creativity. But what about the campaigns that don’t meet these criteria?
You can be forgiven for not knowing where exactly the U.S. stands on foreign trade on the day-to-day, with talk of everything from trade wars to truces. Yet the shifting economic climate poses a significant challenge to industries trying to market themselves at home and abroad - along with the creative agencies who support them.
If advertisers understood the importance of social media before, the protest marches and unprecedented string of teacher strikes provide even more confirmation of digital media’s critical role — when used well — in engaging an audience and shaping public discourse from the grassroots up. K-12 education is a particularly tricky industry for advertisers. It’s one of the two largest industries in the US - comparable with healthcare - accounting for 7.2% of the nations GDP and the largest employer in every state, but spends only a fraction on advertising compared to other industries, according to Forbes.