It’s time for us to reclaim our advertising industry

“You will never win fame and fortune unless you invent big ideas. It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.” — David Ogilvy

In advertising we still love big ideas, and we are still chasing them with each new brief and in every campaign. They are rare, they are real and they offer us — and, of course, the brand — the opportunity for fame and fortune. Fame is important because most famous things leave a mark. They are remembered. And fortune is important too, isn’t it? That’s the whole point… NOT!

Another thing the media business loves is switching to even higher gears. We love winning price wars — the higher the savings we outline, the more clients we get and the higher the turnover we achieve. Size is important because big things leave a mark. They are remembered. That’s the whole point… NOT!

We live in the world of delusions. Our delusions affect our behaviour and everything we think and do in the advertising industry. They distort our place in the marketing ecosystem, twist our actions and shrink our sense of reality. We are very good at filtering out information that does not fit neatly into our vision of the industry and “we cannot cope otherwise” as the author of chaos theory James Glieck once said.

“It’s my strong belief that advertising can be a noble profession, and what we do is fundamentally of great value and good. It’s no longer good enough to say we merely reflect society — we should set ourselves a higher goal and realize a more progressive ambition.” — Tom Knox

I believe it is time to think about the purpose of the industry, to save the advertising industry and create a better world. We must think about what advertising needs to do for itself and how society will benefit. We must demonstrate not just the economic, but also the social benefits of the advertising industry. The big idea is just as important as it ever was. Media planning and buying are just as important as they ever were. However… we have another challenge for the industry, the agencies, and each and every one of us: to develop a clear sense of purpose about the legacy we want to leave behind.

“Anyone can make a difference, so you don’t have to have it be some huge, global campaign… you can start small, and that’s just as important.” — Blake Mycoskie

Let’s start with ourselves and our own why: why we do what we do, why we love this business, and why advertising matters to us. In the words of Simon Sinek, your why provides you with clarity, meaning and direction. It is a filter through which you can make decisions, every day, to bring your cause to life:

  • Be willing to understand people;
  • Be a creative solution to a business problem;
  • Be ready to help people and not only sell them things;
  • Have the desire to add value to the agency and the society at the same time;
  • Have respect for everyone: colleagues, clients, and each other;
  • Celebrate empathy, niceness, enthusiasm, and manners.

We live in a time when the fundamental structures of our industry are in question. At such a time, significant change is inevitable. If the advertising industry finds the will to transform its role in the marketing ecosystem, now is the time to do it.

In our presentations, mission and vision statements, most agencies still only talk about the brand, creativity, savings, ROI, and clients. In the meantime, advertisers have changed their missions and visions, as well as their business, into sustainable ones, maximising their total value creation, contributing to the society and the environment in addition to their bottom line. I believe what agencies lack is purpose — how they can positively contribute to the industry and the society, in addition to their core business.

The years of business done purely for profit are not sustainable, and this thought points you in the right direction. This is the challenge and, at the same time, the biggest opportunity for our industry. We are qualified to identify, draw and articulate purpose. And then the turning point for the industry becomes inevitable:

  • Advertising can be sexy again;
  • The industry can attract and keep brilliant talents;
  • Advertising practitioners can rebuild trust and reputation within business and society;
  • We can redefine the industry’s role in the marketing ecosystem.

“If you have the opportunity to do amazing things in your life, I strongly encourage you to invite someone to join you.” — Simon Sinek

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com on March 24, 2017.

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