Incite by Design

Caustic visions and shared thoughts on design, marketing, creativity, philanthropy, pop culture and business philosophy by Toronto design firm, Ricksticks Inc.

2005-03-22

Is Advertising Broken?

The New Yorker's article on the rise, fall, and reconstruction of advertising is really thought-provoking....

In many ways, the advertising business in the early twenty-first century would be unrecognizable to the generation that once thrived on Madison Avenue. The traditional assumption, as Keith Reinhard says, was that advertisers chose the time and place of a “one-way show-and-tell” ad. The consumer was a captive audience. Today, advertisers chase consumers with a certain air of desperation. “It’s not just about looking pretty anymore,” Linda Kaplan Thaler says. “There are all these beautiful products out there. You need a lot more personality to get the date.”

Because the audience is increasingly fragmented, advertisers have found other media—from the Internet to “guerrilla marketing” tactics, such as using the foreheads of college students (Dunkin’ Donuts paid for that privilege). Ads are increasingly showing up in movie theatres; last year, the Cinema Advertising Council generated three hundred and fifty-six million dollars for theatre owners—thirty-eight per cent more than the year before. Jack Fuller, who, until the end of 2004, oversaw twelve daily newspapers as the president of Tribune Publishing Company, says that his company was among the first to print newspapers zoned by neighborhood. “The answer to fragmentation is, quite simply, to adapt to changing circumstances and compete hard against all comers,” he says.

There are two arguments at work here -

1. The campaign to make really great, useful products that sell via word-of-mouth (Ipod as an example)
versus
2. A traditional gang busters ad approach - saturating the senses of the consumer to the point of convincing them to buy (SUVs, Aflac, etc...)

The problem is that both work. One may be more noble than the other, but the second approach still works and is very much being utilized.

So where is the divisiveness coming from? It's internal.

There have always been ad critics, consumer watchdogs - and consumers are still busy being consumers. They are not the current threat. So what is going on? It's the people we work with every day. It's a dialogue of internal conflict with agencies shifting and crumbling.

This paranoia of self importance in the ad world is really fascinating...
Will advertising eat itself?
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