Memes and Medicis: Brands Are the New Culture Creators

Interruption marketing has reached its sell-by-date, leaving many brands scrambling for relevance. To survive in a post-advertising era, brands have become our modern-day Medicis. They are our entertainers, storytellers, creators and curators – connecting through culture rather than interrupting it.

Speaking at Advertising Week New York, Jason Xenopoulos, VMLY&R’s North America Chief Creative Officer and New York CEO explored why culture has become our new media, and how brands can harness the power to spread like memes within it.

Key Takeaways

  • Great creative work matters – it adds value not just to a brand, but to the customer and to society as well. But most advertising doesn’t add value to anyone. It simply takes up space in an already overcrowded environment.
  • Brands have to stop interrupting culture and they have to start creating it. The interruption marketing era is over.
  • Brands should strive to become modern day Medicis, taking lessons from the Renaissance family that supported artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci and ultimately subsidized some of the world’s most influential art and literature.
  • As marketers, we should be patrons of entertainment, art and culture as well as patrons of our customers’ conversations. Patronage is not a new idea, but it’s an idea whose time has truly come.
  • Why? Because culture itself is the new media. It is our canvas. in the same way that we used to place our commercial messages within paid media channels, we now need to intentionally insert them into the cultural conversation and develop tactics to help them spread.
  • Brands are the memes of culture. A meme is an individual unit of culture, with the power to spread rapidly from brain to brain. It can be a tune, fashions, a saying. We need to start thinking of our brands as pieces of culture.
  • In our connected world, as brands, we have to stop telling the stories that our customers want to hear, and we have to start telling the stories that our customers want to tell.

Notable Quotes

  • “Brands need to rise above the narcissism of advertising and take their place as patrons of contemporary culture.” – Jason Xenopoulos, VMLY&R North America Chief Creative Officer and New York CEO
  • “When brands become patrons, their ads become art, and when marketers start to act like entertainers, their customers start to behave like fans.” – Jason Xenopoulos
  • “We should be creating work that defies categorization. Work that works to build audiences. And builds audiences on the back of brands.” – Jason Xenopoulos
  • “We’re living in the biggest spike in human ingenuity since the 1500s. Isn’t it time that brands and their agency partners start owning that responsibility?” – Jason Xenopoulos
  • “If culture is indeed the new medium, then it stands to reason that brands, those powerful proxies for information and experience, are some of its most fundamental memes.” -- Jason Xenopoulos