It will be a great loss because there is no more powerful technique in the world.
Reimagination happens when we forget all known constraints and start anew. It’s not an improvement, or a redesign -- it’s literally blowing it all up. I love it.
It’s the opposite of incrementalism. What typically happens is that design solutions tend to converge and follow an evolutionary funnel. We establish boundaries for the design, and we optimize designs to a solution. Sony Discmans became thinner, cheaper and had better battery life. Cars became smaller and more efficient petrol engines, floppy discs got cheaper, credit cards got chip and pin, high jumpers got better at the straddle jump.
Then there was a paradigm jump. Someone established that these understood parameters that focused the design didn’t need to be there. We then moved onto the eras of iPods, electric cars, memory sticks, Apple Pay and the Flosbury flop -- entirely new ways to solve the same problems, far superior, and with new and different boundaries.
The most profitable companies on this planet are massively correlated with the amount of product differentiation they offer, which in turn correlates beautifully with reimagination.
Uber didn’t provide a better taxi service by understanding the industry -- they simply blew up every barrier that ever existed, focusing on user experience and taking massive, quasi-illegal moves to bypass regulation.
Apple makes products that do things nobody knew were possible, nobody knew they wanted. There is no greater reimagination than creating something that didn’t exist before.
Alibaba ignored the assumption that as a retailer you should own the stuff you sell. Airbnb ignored the assumption that you need to own the accommodation you rent out.
Yet for all the power of digital transformation, we’ve seen very little change in all of advertising. Most banner ads look very much like press ads of the 1700s, pre-roll ads are just TV ads online, Spotify ads are identical to radio ads. It’s beyond my comprehension that we have not seen a new ad format since the 1950s.
Marshall McLuhan said: “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.” He could not have more precisely described the way we have innovated using limitations of the past. We are bounded by "things that have always been this way" and "this is how the client liked it" and "we can measure it like that" and "but that's all we can buy."
However, the limitations of the past make no sense:
Why are TV ads 30 seconds long?
Why should pre-roll videos look like TV ads?
Why should a banner ad click to take you to another page?
Why do we buy media by media channel when modern media channels don’t make sense?
Why don’t we target the over-50s? They have more than 70% of the wealth?
Why do we think of mobile phones as a form of display advertising only?
So I’d like to lay down a challenge to the advertising industry. If we’d never known advertising before and we were to start from scratch today, what would advertising look like? Where would it be placed? How would it be bought? What would a call to action be? How would you connect with people? How would you plan media?
I’d love to see advertising re-imagined. While I know we alone can’t change an industry, boy would it be fun to try.