Why I have a love/hate relationship with advertising
Although our services at Villing & Company have always involved more than just advertising, not so many years ago people typically referred to us as an advertising agency. As communications channels have evolved, grown and fragmented, traditional advertising has represented an increasingly smaller percentage of our total service mix. But advertising is still a relevant marketing discipline for many organizations and a part of me still loves it. It’s just that now, the relationship is a bit more love/hate in nature.
Advertising is a force for good/evil.
Advertising, properly executed, can provide many valuable benefits. It draws attention to important causes. It is a news outlet that helps create consumer awareness of the benefits of new products or services and expands purchase options (often leading to lower costs). Advertising is a powerful economic force generating sales for marketers and revenue for media, marketing and other service providers.
Advertising also can be a force for evil when it occasionally misleads consumers or preys on their vulnerabilities. Its limitations in word counts or duration can lead to superficiality in information delivery. And in the hands of politicians or those seeking to advocate certain positions, it can create divisiveness in the general population.
Much advertising is stimulating/boring.
As someone who cut his professional teeth in the creative side of advertising, I love advertising that is clever, smart, witty or emotionally powerful. When an ad can move me to tears or cause me to laugh out loud, I know it is doing its job.
Unfortunately, too much advertising today is boring at best and sometimes worse. As noted in this space previously, I believe the creative side of advertising has been marginalized and commoditized in recent years. Instead of marketers using interesting and compelling devices to deliver their messages, many do not invest the time or effort to promote their offerings in a smart and differentiated way. So, instead, they resort to hackneyed, clichéd executions that assume the lowest common denominator of consumer intelligence and simply fail to inspire the target audience.
Advertising is a good/bad investment.
Many in the business community consider contemporary advertising to be a foolish investment. “There’s no way to track one’s ROI”, they say. Or, “people don’t pay attention to advertising anymore.”
I would submit this also reflects an unwillingness to think strategically and make a genuine effort to explore available solutions. Advertising, properly applied, may actually be a better, more trackable form of marketing than ever before. Technology and research tools, often available through the Internet, provide a number of useful means for tracking (and targeting) one’s advertising investment.
For the record, I am talking about all forms of advertising, traditional as well as digital. And, in fairness, there can be extra expense involved in doing supplemental research or special tracking studies. However, these costs may well be offset by the efficiencies of buying media in an increasingly competitive market.
Advertising is, of course, just one of many options in the marketing communications toolbox. For most marketers, the appropriate application of these tools depends on one’s needs, opportunities and objectives. In many cases, the best outcomes involve multiple approaches based on a well-designed integration strategy to enhance impact and maximize ROI.
You might think of advertising in the context of a dramatic performance. It can be the star of a one-man show or part of an ensemble cast. But when the lines are delivered with power and passion, advertising can still play an effective role in contemporary marketing.
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