The Hidden Potential of New Markets / by Chris Weigl

We are living through the largest mass proliferation of information in the history of the humanity.  We have more choices when it comes to the arts than at any point in recorded history.  We could call this the real renaissance; the point in our history where everyone, regardless of their tastes in the arts, should be able to find a match for their eclectic palate of ever-changing preferences in entertainment.  This is the future that no one could have dreamed of.  We live in an age when everything done in the name of art is available in some form or another through the internet.  This unprecedented set of choices that we, the consumer, have can be overwhelming.  Advertisers see this as a time in which ever loquacious ads should flourish because of consumers’ mass exodus to online media.  What advertisers fail to understand – and what advertising firms manage to muck up better than anyone – is that just because you have a potentially bigger audience does not mean that you should alter your message to fit a larger swath of consumers.  Quite the opposite in fact.  If you’re trying to build your brand among a new audience or clientele you should be doing just that: building on an already established base of proven support.

If you watched the Super Bowl or heard about the advertisements that were played during the broadcast of the Super Bowl you probably heard about an ad done by Nationwide Insurance where a kid explains the things he’ll never know because he’s dead.  It’s an awful ad.  Not only is it done in poor taste, but it fails to recognize who its core audience is.  As an insurance company you can’t possibly think that you’re going to get business from dead people, but that’s just what the underlying premise of the ad is selling to.  The advertisers were trying to get people to see terror and fear in order to sell insurance to people who genuinely are concerned that they might die, but what this particular ad fails to address is the fact that people who share this level of concern about their own demise already have insurance.  Therefore this is an ad with either a non-existent demo group or a target demo that has already purchased their product.  This is just an unbelievably stupid move because people can’t even see what they were trying to do or trying to get people to think about with the ad.  Advertising that doesn’t make sense is useless.  Think about how slogans are now using a noun in their ads to substitute for where a verb should be.  This is what ad men and women think of as clever nowadays, but in reality it makes about as much sense from a sales perspective as it does from a linguistic one. 

Advertisers are out of their creative depth and are now simply engaging in a mish-mash of ideas in hopes of making something trendy.  Take Kohl’s new motto: “the more you shop, the more you Kohl’s.”  What does that even mean?  The normal linguistic meaning of this sentence should be something along the lines of: the more you shop at Kohl’s, the happier you are.  Instead of going with an emotional argument they have decided to go with a nonsensical one.  You can’t substitute a noun for a verb and hope it makes sense.  A noun is a person, place or thing.  A verb is used to describe something.  You can’t use a noun to describe something just as you cannot use description to represent an actual entity.  It’s absurd.  Yet instead of thinking up new and innovative ways to reach consumers, ad firms are employing the complex strategy of gobbledygook to try and sway consumers and lo and behold it is not working. 

Consumers don’t know how to “Kohl’s.”  They know the name as a brand name and a place to shop not as something that one can do inside the store itself.  Think about this with another corporation in mind let’s use McDonalds.  Let’s say my brilliant idea is to say: “the more you eat, the more you McDonalds.”  In the eyes of the advertiser such a strategy could work as a formula if it didn’t suffer from one fatal deficiency: a lack of grounding in reality.  There’s no such thing as “Mcdonaldsing” or “Kohlsing” therefore you cannot use these terms interchangeably in your ad slogan.  What is unfortunate about our new wave of access to information is that the people who could be benefiting the most from this situation are actually the ones benefiting the least.  If studios were smart they’d use things like the internet and Bittorrent to gain a greater following for their products.  Instead they have decided to fight the very existence of these mediums and in the process have alienated their younger fan base.  This was a stupid strategy from the get-go, but it is even dumber now that studios have a reliable means of distribution at their fingertips that they are essentially shaming filmmakers into not using.  By labeling increased access to goods as pirating studios are missing a huge opportunity to gain even wider exposure for their products in the same way that advertisers are missing an opportunity to capitalize off the fact that larger, more diverse groups of people are accessing new information every day and via multiple mediums.  This could represent the largest untapped revenue stream advertisers have seen since the demise of print advertising, but because they are more interested in gimmicks than in understanding markets and selling to a new customer base they are missing the largest opportunity they’ve ever had to gain new customers for their clients.

What we are doing at Living History Productions is partnering with companies to take full advantage of the ever changing marketplace for consumers.  Where traditional advertising locks in companies into a set customer base, we see the untapped potential of consumers who have yet to be exposed to companies’ products as a treasure trove of future business.  To put it simply: death is certain, life is not.  You don’t know what the future will hold and you don’t put yourself in a very good position to deal with the future if you hang on to the same old methods that you’ve been using for decades.  Change requires change.  What we offer our clients is a unique opportunity to work with all parties involved in the exposure of a product to show the social and economic utility of said product.  In other words, we’re not interested in gimmicks because gimmicks are a stop-gap measure used to stop the bleeding from a wound.  We want to address the wound so that we can help in the recovery and so we can be a part of the successful re-birth over time of brands, products and companies.  Only by adapting to the future can you hope to be a part of it and here at Living History Productions adaptation is what we’re all about.