Jumping on a given bandwagon is, as we all know, advertising’s national sport. A few years ago, one of those wagons was augmented reality – AR for the initiated. More recently, and particularly after this year’s Cannes festival, it is the virtual variant of that reality that is on everyone’s tongue.
Now the origin of the expression “jumping on the bandwagon” is pretty enlightening. The bandwagon in itself is, as the name suggest, a vehicle on which a band or entertainers of some sort would perform during a parade of some kind. The notion of jumping on it apparently goes back to a performer called Dan Rice who, having turned his attention from entertainment to politics and used his notoriety to enhance his chances of being elected, found himself joined by a whole coterie of other politicians keen to associate themselves with his success.
In today’s advertising terms, Dan Rice is a good symbol for technology, such is the draw it has on the advertising mind and the massive number of breathless sycophants it is able to provide seating for. Indeed, there seems to be no marketing problem that a good piece of tech can’t solve and no limit to the opportunities that a cool piece of gear can generate.
Except that this is rubbish. Creatives and planners the world over are increasingly being drawn into thinking up instruments, gizmos or gadgets of some kind to unlock briefs, instead of coming up with the kind of ideas that their expertise requires, and then using whatever technology can create to underpin that strategic or conceptual thinking.
So today we are all jostling for position on a streetcar named VR. Because it is, well, in vogue, rather than whether it actually offers astonishing creative opportunities. In fact, VR is fantastic, immersive technology that can be a great aid to experiencing a brand. But like all technology – indeed, unlike ideas – it is transient, temporary and will be a laughable object of ridicule a few years from now, much like the Betamax recorder or Second Life are today. In many ways, this is in the nature of bandwagons: Dan Rice was, after all, a circus clown.