Post-advertising is based on brands genuinely adding value to consumers’ lives by generously giving them valuable content. By providing rewarding experiences, brands earn the right to expose consumers to their products and services. At its core, post-advertising is about creating an audience around relevant content and then migrating that audience to relevant products and services.

Microsoft’s crowd-sourced, animated graphic novel, Brandon Generator, a stylish, Sin City type animation in which the audience helps shape the protagonist’s world, would seem to meet this definition. Marketed like a Hollywood film, the above-the-line advertising depicts a Philip Marlowe-esque character and the line “The Random Adventures of Brandon Generator.” Closer inspection reveals that it’s a “Production of Internet Explorer.” Sure enough, upon visiting www.brandongenerator.com, it becomes apparent that the animation is only viewable on Internet Explorer 9 and the would-be viewer is invited to install it. Those that do make the effort are rewarded with an ambitious experiment in interactive storytelling.

Of course, this is not the first time a browser has tried this trick, Google enlisted the help of Arcade Fire, Chris Milk and B-Reel to create the truly inspirational “The Wilderness Downtown”, an interactive video optimised for their new browser Google Chrome.

Is it Post-Advertising?

Both appear to be post-advertising poster-children but looks can be deceiving. In fact, they display much of the arrogance of traditional advertising. Their flaw is that they expect to convert people after a single point of contact. Post-advertising is not as presumptuous. It progressively guides audiences across multiple touchpoints, with increasing depth of involvement at each. These repeated acts of generosity allow the consumer to find out more about the brand and the brand to find out more about the consumer, building trust and aligning the right customer with the right product. At no point is the consumer forced to do anything. They choose to pursue the narrative because it is rewarding in its own right. This creates a tight bond between brand and customer – a bond that traditional advertising can’t buy.

Brandon Generator and The Wilderness Downtown are both great examples of experimental marketing and interactive advertising, but they have more in common with Wieden & Kennedy’s brilliant ad for Old Spice than they do with post-advertising examples such as AKQA’s branded utility for Fiat (Fiat Eco:Drive) or our own success with WGN America. The brands that don’t just survive but thrive in the post-advertising era will be the ones that not only create interesting content for their audiences but those that are truly interested in their audiences. This is where traditional advertising, even if it is great advertising, falls down.

Do you think it’s post-advertising, or just traditional advertising well packaged?