In the pages of the Financial Times, he warns of the death of advertising. Lord Saatchi believes that advertising has been extinquished by a change in culture and commerce:
nowadays only brutally simple ideas get through. They travel lighter, they travel faster.
WhatI am describing here is a new business model for marketing, appropriate to the digital age. In this model, companies compete for global ownership of one word in the public mind.
This is "one word equity".
In this new business model, companies seek to build one word equity – to define the one characteristic they most want instantly associated with their brand around the world, and then own it. That is one-word equity.
Lord Saatchi believes that the work of advertising is now clear. It is to find the one word,
the word that guides everywhere. And once it is found, never to forsake it. How do you find that word? There are 750,000 words in the English language. How do you know which is the right one? It is difficult.
The pain comes from the ruthless paring down of the paragraph to the sentence and the sentence down to the word. One-word equity is the most priceless asset in the new world of the new technologies. Discover it and you have the route to salvation and eternal life.
To call this stupid, well, is this really the one word I’m hunting for? Moronic? Brain damaged? Sorry, that’s two words. Insensate? There is one priceless word for what Lord Saatchi has written, but I need to do a little more paring. I’ll get back to you.
In the meantime, let’s examine Lord Saatchi’s claim. He believes that the hunt for the one, true word is driven by a change in culture and the consumer. Culture has got faster and more complicated. Check. The consumer is now a digital native who thinks in new ways. His branin has rewired itself, responding faster, recalling less. Check. The consumer suffers CPA "continuous partial attention." Check. So advertising is dead. Check, please.
The premises are sound. The conclusion is insane. Lord Saatchi peers into the future and loses his nerve almost immediately. Hold, Lord Saatchi, might the new consumer offer new life to advertising? After all, this is a creature who can monitor several media, detect tiny messages, accomplish acrobatic acts of analysis thereupon. The evidence collected by the likes of MIT’s Henry Jenkins points to the emergence of a consumer with extraordinary powers of assimilation and understanding.
But of course, advertising cannot remain unchanged in the face of this consumer. But it is not clear that it has died, nor that it should now be confined to the capitivity of single words. I think that the new consumer releases the agency from all that old USP [unique selling proposition] and KISS [keep it simple, stupid] nonsense I believe that if we could climb in our Rocky and Bullwinkle time machine and ask the adverisers of the 1950s London and Manhattan if they might like to have the new consumer or the old one, that would be unanimous in their enthusiasm for the new.
Lord Saatchi has two choices in the face of the new consumer. One was to change advertising to give it new power. The other was to kill it, first by declaration in the pages of the Financial Times and then with his new "one word equity" model. Fine work, Lord Saatchi. We will carrying on the revolution without you.
Saatchi. Maurice. 2006. The Strange Death of Modern Advertising. June 22, 2006. p. 13. here.