Advertising? It’s just my friends talking…

The new advertising: Real, casual and viral
The new advertising: Real, immediate and engaging

Attention bureaucrats: if it takes you five days to get an engaging email out to your target, there’s no point in sending it.

Trenchant advice from the man who ran what he fondly calls the Obama fan club. You know the one — with 13 million (aggressively segmented) email subscribers who raised a staggering $500 million to help bring change to America? That guy!

Managing partner of Blue State Digital, Thomas Gensemer touched down at MaRS last week as part of a stellar lineup on Day 1 of Advertising Week 2009 where the focus was Leading Social Change.

Among his advice to we the online communicators:

  1. Email remains the killer app but remember it isn’t really “free”. When done well, email can catalyze a movement. Executed poorly, it can jeopardize your relationship with your constituents. (Note to all: cast a critical eye over your e-newsletters. Time for fresh strategy built around engagement vs. pronouncement?)
  2. If you fake it, they’ll notice. We can all sniff out spin regardless of pretty packaging.
  3. If you promise something, follow through. (Online life lesson parallels real life lesson.)
  4. If you deliver substance — product, content, value — constituents will cut you some slack when you make a mistake.

And online opportunities are ripe in recessionary times. So says Emily Hare, Production Editor of London’s Contagious magazine/agency, who galloped through the trends in online advertising: from branded content (a la Audi and Honda’s own digital channels as well the Cadbury gorrilla phenom and its eyebrow-riffing offspring) to fresh social networking campaigns (see Bugaboo, Vaseline and Converse), fully integrated products and interactive buildings projects like in Stockholm’s emotional cities.

Advertising, what advertising? These are just my friends talking about things that move them. It’s all about utility — ads that no longer shout but offer something honest, useful, entertaining and relevant. The trick, however, is for our gnat-like attention spans to retain just which brand it was that we found so engaging.