Anytime something is preceded by “formerly known,” you have usually encountered something interesting—as it naturally denotes change. It certainly was true in the case of Prince. We all struggled with what to call him when he was just a symbol. Similarly, in the industry formerly known as advertising, we all struggle with what to call our business.
“Advertising” just doesn’t really cover it anymore. It’s so much more than that. It’s still traditional one-way communication like with a billboard or a TV spot, but it’s also a whole lot of two-way communication between people and brands. We all know that advertisers can’t just shout their message from the rooftops or cram a message down peoples’ throats anymore. There are so many ways consumers can opt out of advertising, so the only way to truly reach people consistently is for messages to be meaningful.
I define “meaningful” as something that has value for people. Because it’s so easy to opt out, people don’t have to engage unless they want to. So advertisers need to provide something that is meaningful. That can be as simple as delivering a smile—because a message is funny or clever—or as complex as making someone feel differently about something. Over time, a list forms in peoples’ heads of brands that they enjoy interacting with. They decide to opt in. Personally, I know that I’ll stop and rewind while fast-forwarding through the commercials to see a new spot from “The world’s most interesting man.” I might even follow him on Twitter.
So what do I call what I do now? Sometimes I revert simply to “designer.” But then I have to qualify it with “for advertising” or “communication designer” or something. Well, whatever label eventually sticks for the name of our industry formerly known as advertising, this much is true. I am in the business of designing and facilitating meaningful experiences and conversations between people and brands over time. I’m pretty sure that won’t stick as the name.
Any ideas as to what will?