The Not-so Future of Advertising in South Africa and the World

When you meet the Buddha on the road, don’t kill him – put him on a Greyhound bus and send him to Bloemfontein. Any self-professed marketing guru who wants to predict our future needs to take a step back. But first, give him a copy of Huisgenoot for the ride, and forgive him – he has no idea that he does not know what he is doing. Allow him to bask in his own illusionary fairytale of validity.

The prevailing subjective confidence in advertising is commonly too high and often uninformed. People are too willing to trust experts (beware of the halo effect). Don’t just ask Google and TED. Find your own way.

This industry is a magnet for us artists and writers, who say cheers to pipe dreams and whatsup to earning a living. And, (generally) we revel in the energetic, creative buzz that the ad agency provides us.

Young people entering the game today need to understand that they’re walking into a pre-existing macro-culture (the industry) and a micro-culture (your current agency or your prospective one). But please, this does not mean you have to adhere to it. This used to be an industry of non-conformists, but the revolutionary spirit of defiance has shrivelled. Apathy is the enemy here. We’ve been conned into believing that we only serve clients. We do (to a degree) but most importantly, we serve the people whose behaviour we attempt to change, and who buy their products.

Let’s just keep in mind: We’re not a franchise. We don’t deliver pizzas.

Educated defiance is the medicine here. Think Bart Simpson. Think Ghandi. Think Steve. Think you. Just think. There is always a fine balance between creating an agency and industry culture that is purely anarchistic and one that is nurturing, empathetic and kind.

If our environment was regular, as in chess and ancient sword making, we could learn from its regularities. The associative machinery of our minds would recognise situations and generate more accurate predictions of the future. You can trust someone’s intuition if these conditions are regular, but in advertising our playing field is the world and its people – which are always changing.

So, if you’re thinking of forecasting the future of advertising or your agency and believe this is what you are judging, remember that your evaluation is dominated by your impressions of the energy of your intimate environment and competence of the people around you.

Luckily, there is a new breed of inspired activists entering the industry today (inspired by a previous generation of mavericks) who are more interested in creating the future together, than trying to predict it. For the sake of language, let’s just call ourselves the Transitional Children.

To put that in context: We’re smack bang in the middle of a paradigm shift in consciousness. The internet has connected our minds into one beautiful ecosystem of thought. The power systems are crumbling and fumbling – just have a look at Wall Street and the ANC. And now we’re getting down and dirty somewhere between ethics and co-creation.

The Industrial Age Economy that bred Capitalism is slowly giving way to the Sharing Economy, pioneered by economists such as Charles Eisenstein. It’s being fuelled by the Open Source Movement. Granted, for a while, profit will still be a driving factor behind what we do. But, eventually the existing shareholders will die. And we’ll take over.

But, we are still Children, learning to swim in the unknown, splashing and smashing around as we break down the old world, the illusionary mental constructs that keep it together and the barriers to original thought as we build a vision for a new world, where everybody wins.

The future is now. It’s a party, and you’re ALL invited.

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