Advertising can find its mojo again

Advertising can find its mojo again

Stop being ashamed. There is an abundance of fantastic work and innovation taking us on the journey back to a proud industry.

“It’s important to take pride in what you do,” The Media Leader editor-in-chief Omar Oakes recently wrote in his column titled “Squeamish about advertising? Get over it”.

He’s right, of course. Furtively plying your trade and uncomfortably mumbling “advertising” whenever you’re asked what you do is no way to feel about your industry.

I’ve worked in the media and creative sectors since 1998 and I see this collective shame across the industry more than ever. There’s no doubt the industry needs to find its mojo again. Preferably before AI finds it.

So, if we’re ashamed of advertising, why?

Squeamish about advertising? Get over it

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

Maybe we’re not ashamed of what we do specifically, but the word “advertising” itself.

Maybe it’s just the fact that the media and creative industry is a lot more complicated than it used to be.

People are proud of their adtech solutions, their media activations, their TikTok content calendar — but the word “advertising” just sounds naff and unfashionable.

Rebranding a whole industry is tough, though (see the lack of the word “advertising” on agency websites, as discussed in Omar’s article), and I’d argue that the verbal gymnastics required to say anything but “advertising” removes a flag at the centre of the industry that we can all rally around.

A polished TVC presented on a velvet cushion

“Advertising” is no longer just the TV commercial. It hasn’t been for ages, but the structures of the industry have been slowing down this moment of realisation.

Advertising has to mimic culture and that’s often in the form of raw, throwaway creative on multiple channels.

Not a shoot in South Africa. Not a media plan exquisitely crafted on the upper floors of a holding company silver tower.

And the fact that this democratisation of ability to craft an advertising “hit” could now come from anyone demeans our industry even further in the eyes of those who are supposed to be inspired by it.

Is the party still cool?

My brother-in-law is an executive creative director. He said that, a while ago, planners turned into strategists mainly because if you’re called a planner, people expect a plan. If you’re a strategist, you can float out of the meeting unencumbered by painful follow-ups.

This is present in a macro sense in advertising too. Consultancy acquisitions of the Droga5s of this world have fetishised the process, the strategy and the high-minded thinking away from the craft and media execution. Process, not craft.

Frankly, a lot of the McKinseyan narrative is incomprehensible and has alienated swathes of the industry, especially on the creative side. Not cool.

Relight my fire

These and half a dozen other macro challenges beset us all: the ongoing diversity and inclusion “journey” (including socioeconomic diversity), the lurch towards adtech (how many Patagonia gilets at Cannes?) and the associated and unnecessary “brand vs performance” arguments.

But still, here we are. Advertising does exist, even if we try to avoid it like our auntie desperately trying to wipe our faces with a hanky.

I welcome the wipe and so should you, because there is an abundance of fantastic work and innovation taking us on the journey through this time of change back to a proud industry.

Already on the journey

The good news is I believe it’s already happening, albeit very slowly. Like the death of a loved one, we’re moving through stages of grief and recognition.

The challenges of the status quo are part of that process. The holding groups are evolving to better mirror the real world, with newer, post-S4-a-likes driving that. Creatively, we’re in a “post-authentic” world; and people-wise, the industry at the very least knows it needs to better reflect wider society. Hang tough.

So it’s up to you

So what about that mojo? Well, the thing about mojos is that nobody else can find them but you. Whichever part you play in the industry, it’s worth remembering that we are a large part of the engine that drives the economy.

Sure, sometimes it might feel like we’re stuffing lacklustre creative through media plumbing, but that’s only if you stand by and let it happen.

It’s up to you to make advertising cool again.

Barney Worfolk-Smith is chief growth officer at Daivid

Adwanted UK is the trusted delivery partner for three essential services which deliver accountability, standardisation, and audience data for the out-of-home industry. Playout is Outsmart’s new system to centralise and standardise playout reporting data across all outdoor media owners in the UK. SPACE is the industry’s comprehensive inventory database delivered through a collaboration between IPAO and Outsmart. The RouteAPI is a SaaS solution which delivers the ooh industry’s audience data quickly and simply into clients’ systems. Contact us for more information on SPACE, J-ET, Audiotrack or our data engines.

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