Advertising agencies: The answer to a question no one's asking anymore.

Simplistic 50's advertising

People often say advertising isn't as good as it used to be. Why is that?

There's a lot of reasons: media fragmentation, shorter attention spans, a need amongst clients to achieving awareness over brand-building. But there’s something else. Something deeper. We just don’t need advertising so much anymore.

I was taking about this with my old friend @Jonathan Disegi the other day (on Facebook of all places) and this was one one of our conclusions:

“We've had enough of advertising. People want brands that are practical, do their job and have a friendly approachable personality. A bit like that great waiter, or the plumber you call out in the middle of the night. We don't need the plumber to be wearing a 'zany' uniform, or have a funny catch-phrase. He just needs to be great, friendly, efficient and he doesn’t rip you off. If he does a poor job or overcharges, then we’ll use someone else the next time. I think that's where we've got with marketing."

Of course, advertising still has a part to play, but it's role is much reduced from when advertising was king. Nowadays we learn about brands from a myriad of sources and advertising plays only a supporting role in all of that. It's more a functional (though creative) element of the mix, mostly tasked with creating awareness; meaning it has come full circle. This, after all, was advertising's primary function in the Victorian era.

I’ve written about the reasons behind this in other places - and there's plenty of smarter people than me who explain how we form our opinions. Les Binet and Peter Field are right when they say the most effective ads are the ones that also focus on brand building, but, in a way that underlines the point. A bigger question is, what's the best way to build a brand? In the modern world, it isn't through advertising.

The best ads build brands - but the best brands aren't built on ads.

I'd just like to finish by saying that the consulting firms reveal their arrogance and ignorance by moving into the advertising business. The plan seems to be to retro-fit ad agencies into a bigger offer, which, in reality is much reduced and limited. If that's the case, why pay all that money only to throw the assets away? It’s like taking over the railroads in the age of the car.