Is there still space for the testimonial ad, as found on TV or radio, in a rapidly evolving digital world?
I remember growing up and dreaming of a year, a time, a future-like destination that intrigued and excited me, my friends, Steven Spielberg, Ronald Reagan and all of us caught up in the 1980s... it was (wait for it) the year 2000 and beyond!
Movies opened our minds to the notion of hover-boards, cars that flew, androgynous individuals in one-piece monochromatic Star-Trek-like suits, robot domestic workers, and a world where Daft Punk was the status quo (their look and music). Vastly different
So, if you had to predict in the '80s what advertising would be like in the 2000s, you would probably have imagined it to be vastly different to what you are currently experiencing. Alas, advertising has not evolved as expected and here I stand, 11 years after the fact and the world feels like it's just getting out of the starting blocks
A case in point is the popular barrage of testimonial ads that currently grace our radio and TV stations.
Many will vouch for the effectiveness of the testimonial ad and I, too, have been schooled by some of the 'advertising greats' on why it can, has and will work. However, my question is as follows: Is there space for the testimonial ad, as found on TV or radio, in a rapidly evolving digital world?
Testimonial ads have always been part of the fabric of the ad landscape, from the 1950's Camel cigarette ads to the much-loved OMO testimonials in the '80s and early '90s. In an analogue world, the testimonial was the link between us and a brand or product. It gave our naive, Internet-free, surprisingly optimistic consumer minds a reason to believe, a little nudge to convince us that this new and improved product worked. And "look", real people were using it as well. Reality
The reality is, however, that the world has evolved and with the help of the Internet and various other factors, consumers no longer venture out blissfully unaware and uninformed.
The social media landscape is changing not only the way in which we consume media and information but, more importantly, how we interact with brands. 'In peer review we trust'; this is the sentiment of the digital age. Social media is the new trusted source for all information: from the seemingly insignificant, the highly important and, more relevant than ever - 'the testimonial'.
In my world, social media is normally a first stop for information and opinion. This is not limited to Facebook and Twitter but includes many peer review and ranking sites. At this point, I have to pause and agree that a lot of the above could be attributed to personal experience and is possibly shared by those of a similar outlook, economic standing, LSM etc.
The number may not be huge but I think it's important to recognise that South Africa is part of an African mobile revolution and that our mobile penetration stats are already off the charts (reportedly around 85%).SA and social media
I recently read through Arthur Goldstuck
's 'Mobile Internet in South Africa 2010' survey of 16 million South Africans over the age of 16. According to the report
, 65% of this group has cellphones with the capability to browse the Internet.
A recent Forbes
article states that Twitter has reached nearly 200 million accounts and 100 million tweets per day worldwide. The SA numbers are small in comparison, with 55 000 active tweeters, tweeting 1.5 million tweets a month, but the growth potential is huge and, as technology transcends the generational divide, so too will the use of social media
Having said that, we do have 19 million active MXit users, perhaps a cameo for the future of SA social media?
As technology and apps evolve (even for the lower-end, 'not-so-smart' feature phones), more and more people will become peer review or testimonial champions. Facebook is rumored
to be launching an app for the 'not-so-smart' phones, allowing even more customers to get into the social media stream [Vodacom has yesterday, Monday, 22 August 2011, launched its 'Facebook phone' in South Africa - managing ed
]. Add location-based services to this and the SA testimonial landscape becomes a very interesting place.Relevance of platforms
A nation united in mobile technology will slowly but surely change the way that they interact with brands. Look at what it did for Egypt - now just think of the potential for brands. While testimonials may still be relevant to consumers, the traditional media or platforms might no longer be.
Social media is un-edited and raw; real housewives might be using your washing powder, bank or toilet cleaner but how do they really feel? Are brands ready to get involved with these honest, on the ground brand conversations?
My point? Let's change the game. This is not a call for the abolition of TV as an advertising medium but rather a look at the relevancy of an ad-age-old way of engaging our customers. By all means testify - but just evolve it.