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Monday, May 13, 2013

The Slow Death of Advertising

In recent years, there have been a number of articles on the general topic of the “Death of Advertising” or “Is Advertising Dead.”  Many were shrill, some were measured but all seemed to travel along the following lines--“Advertising is not dead, it is reborn!”, or “Advertising: Game Over”, and “The End of Advertising as We Know It.”

I do not agree with any of the above statements. Perhaps I am just too much of a literalist but let us walk back to a definition of advertising. Looking through all too many textbooks and industry glossaries, a composite definition is as follows: “Advertising is any paid form of non-personal communication about an organization, product or service.  Non-personal means that mass media tends to be involved. The advertiser, with help from its agency, controls when the message is seen and, to a certain degree, by whom.”

If you look at the above definition, then advertising is definitely in decline in so many ways. A key to me is the issue of CONTROL. As social media have soared over the last few years, control has gone out the window. You can monitor what people are saying about you, but you cannot control what is said, who is saying it, and who is seeing their comments. Also, it is user centered rather than product centered in most cases.  Social media is fascinating and is certainly part of a brand’s communication effort. It is not, however, advertising from my perspective.

At the same time, database marketing has moved to a new and much heightened level of control. Companies have a handle on how often you visit their sites, what you buy and in what volumes. They now often customize offers to lure you in to an additional purchase or two. Personalized media delivery such as this has great power. This is very advantageous but, again, I hesitate to call it advertising.

Commercial avoidance in conventional media such as TV, cable and radio continues to rise. This is especially acute with 45% of households now having a time shifting device and the rapid increase in second screen usage while viewing. Hulu and Netlfix also continue to stir the pot. TV is steadily losing its long term luster.

Magazine titles are struggling and the decline in that medium continues.

So where does that leave us? Well, to me, things will continue to evolve but conventional advertising will surely decline.

Many of the new areas of interest are not a rebirth of advertising. What they are is new marketing tools that will sharpen performance. The whole concept of “communal marketing” where brands ask customers to help develop advertising messaging, is really communal branding by real aficionados of the product.  And, it has to give ad agency people with a bit of foresight nervous stomach as brands go straight to consumers for ideas instead of the time honored geniuses at your long standing agency.

So, marketing will evolve, flourish and likely get a lot more precise. Advertising will not disappear but its role in Integrated Marketing Communications has to diminish and at a faster pace than in recent years.

In ancient Greece, the inimitable Heraclitus said "nothing endures but change." He felt that change was so swift that "it is not possible to step twice in to the same river." Those words were supposedly said in the 6th century B.C. Nothing last forever and, it appears advertising will trend downward until we call it something else.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

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