Wednesday, 11 March 2015

#TheDress and Jumping on a Trend

We’ve all heard of the #thedress phenomenon by now. A dress the changes colour depending on how you perceive it. Psychologically it’s very interesting. But what’s just as interesting from our perspective is the reaction of various brands and agencies to it – and what that says about the state of advertising.

First off, the creator of the dress (Roman Originals) has now released a white and gold version to mirror the original blue and black – capitalising on the moment and making use of the viral nature of the meme to create a (perhaps brief) trend. Since the meme began their sales have skyrocketed.

Meanwhile across the web various brands have referenced it, if nothing else to continue to be part of the conversation and engage their followers. (Again, social media is as much about keeping afloat as about getting ahead.)

Another interesting example is the Salvation Army spot by South African agency Ireland/Davenport that played on the meme to make a serious point about domestic abuse. It shows a model wearing the white and gold dress while covered in bruises, with the copy “Why is it so hard to see black and blue?” This ad actually was generated within the agency before searching for a charity to associate with – which if nothing else is a rebuke to those who say that advertising has no soul to it.

There’s a broader point to all of this. In a world of memes and trends and viral events, it can seem that advertisers are a bit pass√©, a bit out of step. The reality couldn’t be more different.

What advertising does is to ride the waves of trends and new events, to defend brands from risks and pitfalls. It also gives the opportunity, as with the S.A., to capture a moment and produce something that cuts through by speaking to people in a way that makes them listen at that moment – that is contextually relevant. After all, advertising is all about communicating with people in a way that engages with them.


Certainly the media world is changing beneath our feet. But while the medium and the method may change, advertising will always exist. Because advertising is not reliant on bricks and mortar. Advertising is about communication, and about communicating ideas. That is the core, and as long as you communicate it, you’re in advertising.

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