Winter 2006

Advertising’s second coming [extract]

Advertising is dead. Long live advertising!

by Tom Himpe
Thames & Hudson, £29.95

This book provides a succinct overview of alternative advertising strategies that have become prominent in the past decade. By summarising and describing different approaches, Himpe illuminates processes lying behind attention-grabbing campaigns and strategies. The point of these strategies is to capture the attention, even admiration, of a sophisticated, advertising-saturated audience.

Himpe’s basic premise is that since the mid-1990s, the traditional media of television, magazines, newspapers and billboards are no longer effective in reaching their target audiences. He quotes the fact that, twenty years ago, three commercials would reach 80 per cent of the American audience, but today it would take 150 commercials to reach the same audience. In the contemporary multi-channel, multimedia environment audiences are fractured and also overwhelmed with choice. New technology has enabled consumers to switch off and tune out advertising. More importantly, the majority of consumers are jaded by advertising: they are sophisticated, bored and alienated by hard sell and conventional strategies. The challenge for contemporary advertisers wanting to engage with their audiences, is in devising ways of capturing their attention, entertaining them and impressing them through cleverness and panache.

Himpe sees there are four key drivers of alternative advertising: proximity, exclusivity, invisibility and predictability; and eight key strategies that characterise the field: intrusion, transformation, installation, illusion, infiltration, sensation, interaction and stunt. The bulk of the book is made up of examples of these strategies, with the largest sections being intrusion and illusion. It also reflects the other key drivers of alternative advertising: wit and intelligence. He ends the book with some guidelines for building campaigns and ‘twenty pointers to start you thinking’ . . .

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