Friday 13th of December 2013: unlucky for some? Yes. It was a dark day for the advertising industry, simply because of one woman: a certain Mrs. Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. As the clock struck midnight (EST) and the 12th became the 13th, the superstar dropped her self-titled fifth album with no warning, no announcement and, crucially, no advertising.
What happened next was virtually unprecedented; Twitter naturally exploded, and the shockwave of a global superstar not so much breaking the mould as reinventing it resonated with such force that a mere 13 (poetic) hours later, BuzzFeed were able to put together this hilarious post. Beyond the initial media storm however, the figures spoke for themselves, the ‘visual album’ smashing all previous iTunes records and garnering universal acclaim from critics.
Now, clearly, it was only quite that successful due to Beyoncé’s powerful extant media brand and her voracious fanbase; however, it raises questions that have been around for the better part of twenty years about how relevant traditional advertising is in the digital age. A quick google of the phrase ‘the death of the ad agency‘ returns millions upon millions of hits from several different, highly respected outlets. Since the advent of the smartphone many everyday facets of life have become outdated and unnecessary, illustrated here:
In a similar way, social media and online journalism have all but removed the need for traditional forms of advertising. Put into an exemplary everyday context, a billboard advertisement for the latest George Clooney blockbuster that someone sees on their drive to work is no longer the primary way of generating interest, as said person will likely have already seen five tweets, three Facebook statuses and an article on their Flipboard about it over their morning coffee.
The digitalisation of key areas of a person’s life (news, socialising, media consumption etc) that is inexorably and inarguably happening presently means that advertising is all around us all the time. Alongside this, digital journalism means that even a few hours to react to a breaking news story is too long; the population now wants and expects to know things as they happen, and everyone has to keep because if one media outlet isn’t reporting it, someone, anyone else will be. The sheer rapidity of the online world is exactly why Beyoncé didn’t have to advertise or even announce BEYONCÉ; the very second it dropped, the world did it for her.