Villing & Company

Don't Put Dirt on Advertising's Grave Just Yet

It is not my role to be an apologist for advertising in general or TV advertising specifically. We are, after all, an integrated marketing communications agency and try to maintain a solution agnostic perspective when developing marketing communications strategies for our clients. But a couple of recent articles caught my attention and seem to warrant discussion.

The first was a piece called "The End of Advertising as We Know It" by Michael Wolff. Like many Chicken Little industry analysts, Wolff posits that the death of advertising is inevitable and that we have to “come to terms with the ultimate nightmare scenarios of a world that would no longer willingly tolerate advertising.” His article focused particularly on television advertising. Not surprisingly, he juxtaposes the growth of digital advertising media to reinforce his basic premise about the death of advertising. And, frankly, he makes some good points. I particularly liked a quote Wolff shared from the head of a big digital agency:

“We don’t do story. We facilitate the handshake by moving the cash register closer to the consumer. That’s more economical and efficient than trying to create desire and demand.”

But there is a fundamental flaw in that logic. I don’t care how close the cash register is to the buyer, one HAS to create desire and demand. Or more precisely, one needs to go back to the AIDA principle we all learned in Marketing 101 (Attention/Interest/Desire/Action). The quote above puts all the attention on Action and conveniently ignores the essential first steps designed to create Attention (and Awareness), Interest and Desire. Without those first three elements, Action is unlikely.

To be sure, there are marketing communications disciplines other than advertising that can create desire and demand. These range from PR and social media to certain search marketing strategies and more. But to give advertising its due, I would draw attention to the second piece of information that just came to my attention. The current issue of Ad Age provided a summary of advertising spending in 2014 vs. 2013. While not surprisingly certain media like radio, newspaper and magazines took their lumps, they still account for about a third of the $141 billion spent on advertising in the past year. By contrast, TV ad spending actually grew about 5 percent over the previous year and now stands at about $78 million including network, cable and local buys.

How does one reconcile these contrasting perspectives? Either there are a lot of really stupid people wasting billions of dollars in their marketing communications spending decisions – or they still see the need and value of traditional advertising. My money is on the latter. And I’m not ready to throw dirt on the grave yet.

Filed Under: advertising

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