Monday, December 28, 2009

Fewer Actors, Other Trends You'll See in 2010

The Wall Street Journal

The economy may continue its gradual recovery next year, but advertising is expected to show the influence of the recession through 2010.

Don't expect a letup in the rough-and-tumble sales pitches that hit the airwaves, Web and magazines this year, as advertisers like Campbell Soup and Verizon Wireless, owned by Verizon Communications and Vodafone, took direct aim at their competitors. Advertising executives expect such barbed comparison ads to continue.

Other companies, meanwhile, will be showing their softer sides. In the bleak aftermath of the recession, many marketers think consumers will respond to brands they perceive as giving back to the community.

PepsiCo, for example, recently decided to bypass Super Bowl advertising in favor of an online campaign that doles out funds for charitable purposes.

"There are lots of issues and problems in the world, and we are seeing a rise in corporations doing good, because government can only go so far. There are lots of issues and problems in the world, and it's cool to do good," says Rob Schwartz, chief creative officer of Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day Los Angeles. Industry executives also are convinced it will be effective.

Another of next year's prominent themes will be a throwback to the early days of television. Ad executives say they expect an increase in live TV commercials, which made a comeback in 2009.

In the spots, talk-show hosts like Jimmy Kimmel perform skits featuring the advertiser's product. "We are looking at ways to keep the consumer engaged, and live TV ads are helping us do that," says Richard Gagnon, chief media officer at Interpublic Group's DraftFCB.

Madison Avenue executives say they will rely on these and other strategies, such as using fewer actors and more animated characters, and spots that share the screen with TV programs to thwart ad-skipping. Here's what they say you'll be seeing in 2010.

Rising Stars

Social-network personalities will make their way to mass-media stardom next year, says Christian Haas, creative director of Omnicom's Goodby Silverstein & Partners. Mr. Haas says consumers will see the ubiquitous press quotes that pepper movie and car ads share screen time with the average Joe's tweets.

Divided Attention

TV networks are increasingly looking for ways to stop consumers from ad-zapping, says Mr. Gagnon of DraftFCB. He says TV viewers will see more split screens that give them a glimpse of what is going on behind the scenes of a show while a commercial runs on the other side of the split.

DraftFCB is looking at doing a test of the ad format for one of its clients during a prime-time talk show. Consumers would see the talk-show host getting ready for his next segment on one side of the screen while the ad plays on the other side. Expect to see more of these ads during live programs and sporting events, Mr. Gagnon says.

Mobile, for Real This Time

Mobile advertising has long been promised and largely underdelivered. David Lubars, chief creative officer of Omnicom's BBDO, says he thinks a breakthrough is right around the corner. It'll have something to do with longer-form entertainment, he says.

Daryl Lee, president of global communications planning at Interpublic's Universal McCann, predicts mobile marketing will find a purpose: helping consumers find what they are looking for at local stores, probably in the form of apps, gadgets and widgets, not regular ads.

Tiger Fallout

As the fallout from Tiger Woods's alleged infidelities continues, the episode will have a drastic effect on sports marketing, says Tony Ponturo, former head of global sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch InBev. Consumers will see fewer big-name celebrities and athletes pitching for brands. Mr. Ponturo says marketers will look more to sponsor teams, leagues and events, rather than individuals, an approach with fewer risks.

Getting to Know You

Consumers will give their personal information in return for getting the ads they want to see, predicts Tracy Scheppach, innovations director at Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group. "I just see the stuff I have opted to receive because I am a mom—that's advertising," she adds.

Cheaper Pitchmen: Employees

Employees are well-versed in the products they represent, and their enthusiasm can enhance a brand exponentially on the Web, says Marian Salzman, a trend spotter for Havas's Euro RSCG Worldwide. Best Buy has been ahead of this curve, Ms. Salzman says, with employees, called Blue Shirts, who pitch for Best Buy in TV ads and on Twitter, Ms. Salzman says.

Lux 2.0

Luxury, one of the last industries to embrace the Web, will leapfrog other categories in digital marketing, says Mr. Lee of Universal McCann, "as we watch the rapid rise of the luxury geek."

Avatar Envy

Thanks to the new sophistication in animation, "We are going to see more animation and virtual talent in ads. It's cheaper than hiring actors," and it avoids the risk of having your brand associated with a celebrity, says Mr. Gagnon of DraftFCB.

Watch One, Get One Free

Paying for content is the foundation of the ad business. But as consumers tune out ad messages, companies that offer tangible benefits will most likely win their attention, says Mr. Haas of Goodby. Sprint Nextel started offering free Wi-Fi in the airport; Google is paying for it on the plane. "Anyone interested in comping my cable modem at home?" Mr. Haas says.

Less Glitz

More ads will be made on the cheap, as advertisers continue to cut costs and seek a way to connect with digitally savvy consumers who see the world through their iPhone, says Mr. Schwartz of TBWA.

Write to Suzanne Vranica at

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