Social and personal: divergent ad industry trends?

by Nigel Hollis | July 09, 2018

A couple of weeks ago I was at Cannes Festival of Creativity and was struck by an interesting divergence within the creative industry. On one hand we had brands trying to hack the cultural conversation and on the other we had brands using AI to personalize their ads. But could the two trends be mutually exclusive?

Burger King has made a name for itself as a brand that seeks to hack the cultural conversation to its advantage. Fernando Machado, global chief marketing officer at Burger King, and David Miami’s associate creative directors, Juan Javier Peña and Ricardo Casal presented their five steps for successfully hacking pop culture to a packed audience in the Palais’ Lumiere Theatre.

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You can read about the five steps in detail here but as Angela Natividad asks in her article, could it be that the presentation’s audience had been hacked? Because with the exception of step four, call your lawyers, I cannot help but feel that Burger King’s secret sauce is simply old-fashioned communication development served up in an attractive new wrapper.

The Burger King presentation made me want to ask, “Where’s the beef?”  Yes, the objective is different, sparking cultural conversation rather than directly influencing behavior, but the basic principles are the same: figure out what you need to achieve, study the problem in detail, find a way for the brand to own the idea and then deploy it effectively. As Machado stated, “This isn’t rocket science”.

On the other hand, one could argue that deploying AI is rocket science. One area of focus was the use of AI and tech to produce more personalized ads, not surprise there, but having heard the Burger King presentation I could not help but reflect on the yawning divide between the two approaches. Boosting your brand through social commentary implies creating content that resonates with a wide audience who find it so engaging they want to talk about it or share it with others. Everyone sees and shares the same content. But with personalized ads the content is specific to the person (assuming the algorithms got it right). People cannot easily discuss the content because their experience differs and other people may not respond as positively when the content is shared.

Maybe the division is as simple as brand building requires creating social currency and activation is more effective when personalized but I am not sure that many marketers are making that distinction. But what do you think? Please share your thoughts.

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