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This is the Age of the Audience

Digital Brands - True Digital

While astrologers are undecided whether the Age of Aquarius - a term made famous from the musical Hair and which hippies and stargazers believe refers to the current or next astrological age - has arrived or not, it’s rather clearer that advertising has entered a new epoch.

Countless effectiveness studies illustrate the upside of not employing a solely top-down brand communications model, and with the rise of adblocking, the Ages of Function, Emotion and Ideology  are rapidly becoming consigned to advertising’s equivalent of the cosmic dustbin.

People are no longer obliged to sit through advertising in order to access the content that they want, and the models that marketers previously used to snatch a slice of their attention have disappeared. Instead we are entering a new stage in the evolution of brand communications – the Age of the Audience.

Much like the Age of Aquarius in which those same astrologers believe humanity will take control of its own destiny, the Age of the Audience will see brands ceding control to a group of people that can no longer be so easily and lazily dismissed as “consumers” or a “target market”, for they are now in charge.

Unfortunately, as yet, few brands have grasped this shift – hardly surprising given that the industry is still largely constructed around old business models that relied on top-down campaigns. Undoubtedly the ideological forays of things like Dove’s Real Beauty have had some success (although the recent ‘bottle shape to match your body’ idea was miscalculated), but you do wonder for how long brands can ‘over-extend’ themselves this way. 

While social media backlashes are often misrepresentative of wider public feeling (Pepsi sales did, after all, see a spike in the wake of the Kendall Jenner misstep), the fiasco did show that brands can’t switch ideologies on and off or expect them to live in a 30-second television ad. In the Age of Audience, a brand needs a strategy that is consistent and true across all platforms at all times.

But don’t be too concerned. It’s not all doom and gloom for advertising; it can still have a role to play but as part of a more grounded strategy which deciphers what authentic role a brand can play in people’s lives. Answering this question forces us to put the audience in middle of our consideration, rather than the brand: audience-centric thinking. 

Amazon Music Unlimited - Moments

Amazon is notorious for consistently putting the customer first (think what Kindle did to reading and what Prime does to create the ultimate customer experience) so our Music campaign for Amazon Music Unlimited was going to be audience centric from the get go. 

Amazon Music Unlimited comes with a huge catalogue of 40 million songs, playlists and personalised stations, also powered by the voice recognition and play capabilities of Echo. All the things that led us to believe that only Amazon could genuinely make music available to everyone. Under the strategic thought of ‘Music for Life’, an idea centred around the irrefutable human truth that ‘music makes life better’ was born.

Very quickly, we looked to the world of online content; a world ruled by the audience where communication is always on their terms. We appropriated the language of UGC and took inspiration from memes and tropes and the thirst for high volume, short-form content, creating work which reflects the environment in which it lives.

The campaign, ‘Moments’, runs across video content, radio and social, and shows how Amazon Music Unlimited has the ability to enhance every moment in life, from the mundane to the sublime and the downright ridiculous, in a style sympathetic to the culture of online content consumption.

As our ECD, David Billing, says, “Our breakthrough with Moments was deciding that we didn’t need to be cool. Let Apple and Spotify play there. Our audience of late majority streamers didn’t need to be persuaded to do something by Taylor Swift or imagine themselves crowdsurfing at some impossibly hip gig. And actually, the majority of the music we listen to doesn’t soundtrack cool stuff in our lives. It’s there elevating the mundane, the everyday, the little life moments. And occasionally those big pivotal moments too. The point is music isn’t something to aspire to. It’s part of the fabric of our everyday lives, from the sublime to the ridiculous. And once we’d got there, the rest flowed.”

For the first phase of the campaign, we have harnessed the widespread love for videos of babies and animals and taken UGC to create entertaining, shareable content. Phase one of the campaign is now pounding the newsfeeds, social channels and airwaves of the US and the UK, each celebrating Amazon’s vast and accessible music library.

Everything from strategy to concept to production to post-production was handled within the walls of A+B; and the great thing is, there’s more to come.

Agency: Above+Beyond, London

'music makes life better'
human truth behind the idea
Amazon Music Unlimited - Moments
Amazon Music Unlimited - Moments

About the author

Zaid Al-Zaidy, Above+Beyond, CEO and Partner

Zaid is CEO and Partner of Above+Beyond, the independent creative agency for the audience age, with clients including Amazon, Betway, Ornua Foods and Meantime Brewing Company. He joined the agency in 2016, bringing 20 years experience across some of the world’s most iconic brands.
Starting his career at Unilever, Zaid propped up a generation’s pulling power with the promise of the Lynx Effect. Over in adland, the scent of success followed him across senior strategic roles at Mother and TBWA and as CEO of McCann London.
He is an elected member of the Council at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and a member of the Effie’s UK Steering Committee. He’s even been Alan Sugar’s advertising advisor on The Apprentice. But don’t hold that against him.

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