Is it just me, or does it feel like almost every ad or piece of branded content you see these days is a brand patting itself on the back for having helped some unwitting participant enjoy a richer, better, more thrilling life experience?

Nowadays, when brands aren’t using integrated comms campaigns to make us over, revamp our houses, or pimp-up our cars, they are pulling Derren Brown-style stunts on us that will make our lives more momentarily fun, or gift us our dream job.  It takes me back to a simpler time, when all brands did was tell us how great they were and what their products did.  To find out if their claims were true, we had to trial the product; but the memory of those quainter ads is getting fainter and fainter.

Now that my 7-year-old can work pretty much every product in the house, including the latest apps and social technologies, then maybe brands have done all the explaining and promoting possible, and now must use interactive marketing campaigns to actively enter into and improve our lives.  (It is certainly a lot more fun to watch videos of Dell’s "Piano Stairs…Enjoy the piano tunes as you climb up the stairs" than it is hear about their super-cheap super-reliable laptops).

What this high-profile form of participatory advertising has led to, is the necessity for real people’s responses to generate part of the creative end-result itself. What I mean is that the brand advertisement is not complete until people actually interact with it and show their surprise and gratitude.

Economist Umair Haque says brands must now expect that people will not ask is this product better than competitor’s offerings, or the last version; but instead: did it make me fitter, or wiser, or have more fun or improve my own or my community’s well-being?  And also, was it an exciting and entertaining experience to engage with and to watch other people engaging with?

If the new trend in advertising is to provide real-life "solutions, not propositions" (Faris Yakob), then the state-of-play for marketers is no longer about creating social media activations and creating ads, but about creating ads wholly based upon social media outcomes, like this example below where Oreo’s uses a TV spot to promote an Oreo Whisper Fight campaign.

Though ultimately all of us in the comms business must remember that however sophisticated our promotional tools and techniques become “the best ad is a good product” (Alan H. Meyer)

This was a guest post by a former colleague and good friend of mine Jono Marcus who is now a partner at Inkling down south. You can read his blog here.

About Chris Norton

Chris Norton is the founder of Prohibition and an award winning communications consultant with more than twenty years’ experience. He was a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and has had a varied PR career having worked both in-house and in a number of large consultancies. He is an Integrated PR and social media blogger and writes on a wide variety of blogs across a huge amount of topics from digital marketing, social media marketing right through to technology and crisis management.