9 March 2011 - 8:05pm | posted by | 23 comments

Ad guru Steve Henry says advertising may 'go away'

Ad guru Steve Henry says advertising may 'go away'Ad guru Steve Henry says advertising may 'go away'

Steve Henry, advertising legend, a founder of HHCL and most recently former creative director of TBWA, told a Marketing Industry Network meeting last night that he does not believe the industry will continue to exist in its current form.

Speaking at the event, hosted by Glasgow-based Material Marketing, in his capacity as chair of this year's Roses Advertising Awards, he told the MiNetwork gathering: "Advertising is like wasps at a picnic. Very annoying."

He went on to to say that advertising is based on a disruptive model that may not be sustainable in the new age of social media.

"The fact that advertising is disruptive is something that is inherently flawed about the current model", he said.

"Somebody once said that advertising is the answer to a question that nobody ever asked and that is now more of an issue than ever before.

"Look at Spotify for example. There people pay not to listen to the ads. That means the advertiser can only get to people too mean to pay £10. That is not an attractive proposition.

"I believe advertising in its current form may go away.

"What really brought this home to me was when I left TBWA. I was a bit disillusioned with the industry and effectively left it for three months. I stopped looking at ads. And what I discovered is that most normal people don't care about advertising. It is fascinating to us because it is our profession.

"But the real test is taking a piece of work home which you think is great and showing it to your relatives. The fact is they probably won't care."

He said that advertising in its current form persists because clients are obsessed with the concept of a captive audience of people "passively waiting to see their ads." But these audiences are disappearing.

"Mumsnet is very interesting," he said. "Their mission is to get marketing directors out of the board room and into their forum. They have brands like Robinsons or Persil engaging these forums free of charge and using them to develop their products. That way they get a million advocates which is what any brand wants.

"But they can also get some really negative feedback. However, this sort of engagement is the future."

Comments

Anonymous (not verified)
10 Mar 2011 - 09:21
Anonymous's picture

I agree with Bunter. 'Normal people' have never cared about advertising and they never will. They might end up having an affection/interest for the the products they buy, but that's pretty distant from 'caring' about the ads. Also, Spotify is a very specific example, and I think it says more about the current state of radio advertising than it does about the industry as a whole. Also, here's one to chuck in: if all advertising vanished tomorrow, would anyone miss it? You know what? I think we might.

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Anonymous (not verified)
10 Mar 2011 - 09:27
Anonymous's picture

Mark Gorman makes sense. And people love adverts (TV/Radio/Press/Digital) when they are good. Stef Calcraft on BBC Breakfast the other morning had a great story of people actually stopping the Sky+ whizz through the ad's to watch certain commercials (in this case Cadbury Gorilla) I just wish clients would allow agencies to be as creative as they can be, instead of being so risk averse that they actually hinder their own brand development. Social/online is here to stay, but only as another channel.

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Anonymous (not verified)
10 Mar 2011 - 09:33
Anonymous's picture

For me, the critical point of this is the 'in its current form' element. Personally, I could not agree more. However I believe it will still exist in its current form, but the innovators and those who care and understand their ROI metrics will be moving away from creating expensive background noise and turn to channels that do actually engage effectively with their audiences.

There is a shameful amount of money spent on this noise and a growing 'feeling' that it is not for the public and more for our own bragging rights.

Don't get me wrong, it has a job to do and it's certainly my bread and butter, but I cannot get enthused about the remote pieces of 'art' we produce as I do not feel they do not truly engage with our audience.

The Mum's Net example is so true and has so much potential.

Got me thinking...

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Anonymous (not verified)
10 Mar 2011 - 10:03
Anonymous's picture

Why would people who aren't in advertising care about advertising? It's irrelevant.

What they do care about - and always will - is looking good, having shiny hair, the car they drive, drinking a cola that makes them part of the in-crowd, getting good food at a good price from their local supermarket and so on. And let's not forget, advertising only exists because people want to be led. Otherwise the original form of social media - word of mouth - would never have been replaced.

ATL channels carry an extra authority over BTL/online channels. There's something inherently flattering about a brand spending hundreds of thousands of pounds, even millions, coming to find you. And it makes you believe them more. Moronic as it may sound, it's just human nature.

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Anonymous (not verified)
10 Mar 2011 - 10:14
Anonymous's picture

Spot on anon 10.03

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Anonymous (not verified)
10 Mar 2011 - 10:20
Anonymous's picture

Blah, blah, blah, I've been in this business man and boy since 19 oatcake, blah, blah, blah now I've left it's all going to change, blah, blah, blah people are desperate to "engage" with "brands" and have a "meaningful dialogue" with them, blah, blah, blah, Lunch!!

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10 Mar 2011 - 11:45
theanonymouscreative's picture

After reading this I'm very worried that the 48 page brochure I'm doing for Bury Double-Glazing centre isn't to get people as excited as I hoped. And I'm not even going to mention the doubts I have about the South Manchester MOT Centre in-store shelf wobbler.

Think I might sort out some ads in social media instead.

So if anyone reading this is interested in having their windows replaced at a competitive rate with high levels of service and aftercare then please call 0161 893 6632. Mention this code' DRUM876' and you'll receive a 8.25% discount.

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10 Mar 2011 - 12:53
david_milligancroft's picture

I was sitting in a dentist waiting room this morning and the coffee table was strewn with women's magazines: Heat, Grazia, Hello, OK, etc, etc. I flicked through a handful, perusing a myriad of ads for beauty products. It's all about the consumer's Path to Purchase and where they are on the journey.

If they are close to the end of the journey, we are in retail territory, promotion, incentive etc. Closer to the beginning and it's brand awareness. Where we reach them is entirely dependent on the brand/product/service and the consumer profile.

If they read Grazia or watch Corrie then that's where we'll target them. They may also look at Mum's Net and Facebook, so we'll reach them there too.

Of course advertising is changing. Always has, always will. Steve's epiphany at TBWA London was probably as much to do with being shocked at having to do work that wasn't just ATL.

Whereas, in the Provinces, we have always been TTL or 'Integrated' depending on the most up-to-date buzzword. We've had to be. Perhaps the brands that work with London shops might do well to note this when they are considering a more ‘holistic’ media strategy.

A lot of 'traditional' ad agencies seem to be panicking about being left behind. And a lot of digital people think it's the end of ad agencies. It won't be. It's just going to change for the better. I wrote a piece some time back on my Drum blog about the need for a new creative model and for creatives and developers to work more closely. The old ways aren't dead, they are evolving into something new.

Wherever the consumer goes, ad agencies won't be far behind.

http://thedrum.co.uk/blogs/davidmilligan/2010/06/24/time-for-a-new-creat...

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Anonymous (not verified)
10 Mar 2011 - 12:56
Anonymous's picture

Isn't this kind of event is as archaic as the subjects Steve is talking about? To me it's just a bunch of middle aged men sitting around talking about the changes that are happening in their working world.

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Anonymous (not verified)
10 Mar 2011 - 14:02
Anonymous's picture

Is Steve Henry auditioning for the new Levis Laundrette commercial in that pic?

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Anonymous (not verified)
10 Mar 2011 - 14:07
Anonymous's picture

There's good points in the story, but surely we all knew this already. I'm 4 years in and I knew it after 4 weeks.

It's the silly old dinosaurs like his former employer and their dossiers on 'disruption' and other crap adland anachranisms that are stifling talented people working within their industry and stopping us from changing and producing.

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Anonymous (not verified)
10 Mar 2011 - 15:13
Anonymous's picture

The public love TV advertising and always talk about it, they sing "Go compare", they talk about the Meerkats and when a totally original, cryptic idea like Cadburys Gorilla comes along, the public are in raptures. I don't hear the general public talk about the new web banner that popped up this morning. The kids entering the industry will always refer to the old guard as dinosaurs because that's what kids do. Why do they love Justin bieber? Because he is so much better than the dinosaurs in U2 Why do they all dress up like Jordan, pout and stick there tongue out on face book? The next after them generation will crease up. Back to advertising - yes of course digital is here to stay, but in the same way as when the TV was invented, as the youth keep telling us - it is just another channel. The rules of 'disruption' still apply. As for engaging people in a conversation on a blog or forum, the public are becoming savvy to this kind of 'selling' very much in the same way that young girls are becoming savvy to 45 year old men in their chat rooms. The next generation will crease.

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10 Mar 2011 - 15:43
neale_gilhooley's picture

Advertising is never going to go away, it's just going to evolve. From sandwich boards to billboards to keyboards. Just think of all the advertising funded things out there.

Media fragmentation makes it harder but you also have to remember that a big slice of the population does not Tweet, mobile blog or live online as so many of us in the industry do.

When I first worked in Advertising my Dad said ‘Get a real job son’. Now when I explain what I do digitally all day for work he says ‘Get a real life son’.

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10 Mar 2011 - 15:55
dan_appleby's picture

Does it really matter whether people care about advertising (I'll use this broad sweeping term to avoid any arguments) in their everyday lives? Is it not more about whether our efforts affect a change in behaviour and therefore are effective and actually work? The change might simply be in their perception of a brand, or it may lead to a more direct-response. Whether their cognitive processes acknowledge that a change has come as a result of advertising is kind of irrelevant.

Successful brands have never tried to hide the fact that they were trying to sell more stuff. Advertisers aren’t trying to dupe their audiences by hiding our motives or claiming to be completely altruistic. People aren’t daft; they know that the reason Old Spice is tweeting them and that Interflora is asking them whether they’d like some flowers to cheer them up is to get them to buy their products; but that’s ok. If it is relevant and interesting then people are more likely to accept it, and hopefully care enough to do something. But let’s be honest, how many real people are actually going to bother tweeting about double glazing (having said that there are close to 12,000 people who have ‘liked’ a well known butter)?

The reasons that clients work with agencies are fundamentally the same. But yes, of course the landscape has changed, as it will continue to do so. And therefore the way that our work delivers has had to change accordingly. What was disruptive 10 years ago is now pedestrian. Personally I think that the challenges we are facing make it the most exciting time to be involved in the industry.

Mind you, I would have quite liked to have been around to enjoy the affluence and flamboyance of the 80s.

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10 Mar 2011 - 18:22
theanonymouscreative's picture

I'd be worried if people did care about advertising.

Shouldn't they care about their families and friends, enjoying life or helping stamping out poverty to name a few minor things that actually improve the world we live in. Advertising is less use than toilet paper, at least that has a purpose.

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Anonymous (not verified)
11 Mar 2011 - 10:50
Anonymous's picture

It really shocks and saddens me to think this question is being asked. It has always been a privilege to work in this industry especially on the creative/design side (for good and for bad). I admit to being a senior (Dinosaur) but I lived in the days when it was really good fun and you relied on your talent rather than technology..in other words if you were'nt very good you were soon found out and out on your arse.

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Anonymous (not verified)
11 Mar 2011 - 11:05
Anonymous's picture

We live in a system where we make things and sell them to each other.

Advertising makes people aware of the product you make.

If you don't advertise, your product won't sell enough and you'll be out of work.

There are some profoundly thick people here that have to be told this.

Did any of you receive any kind of eduction at all ? Very very embarrassing.

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Anonymous (not verified)
11 Mar 2011 - 14:34
Anonymous's picture

As the author of the dinosaur comment I want to point out to Anon Thu 10 Mar 2011 15:13 and Anon Fri 11 Mar 2011 10:50 that I was not using the term in relation to people. It was meant as a comment on the rickety old agencies that plod along with the same mindset they had 30 years ago.

Insert some kind of football analogy regards age and if you're good enough.

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Anonymous (not verified)
14 Mar 2011 - 16:12
Anonymous's picture

Interesting point 14:34, but what you'll find is that the agencies that 'plod' along are the one's who are in the business for all the wrong reasons (money, image and more money). Anybody with a creative/design brain avoids these companies like the plague as they are an embarrassment. Finally, it's great being a dinosaur because I know I'm used for my skills, crafting and dedication rather than my ability for pressing the right buttons on a computer like all the other Mac operatives.

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Anonymous (not verified)
9 Mar 2011 - 21:08
Anonymous's picture

Well said Steve I couldn't agree more. As an advertising creative having been out of the industry for a while and living in the 'real world' it was a revelation to discover that people don't care about advertising - they don't even talk about it other than a passing reference to a celebrity endorsed product or something. Due to the internet revolution there are more and more messages all screaming for your attention which causes real irritation among consumers so the blog and forum are very much the future. It's engaging people in a conversation rather than just shouting at them.

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9 Mar 2011 - 21:13
saman_mansourpour's picture

This is really interesting, and a great piece. However, presumes less about advertising and more about the media channel and targeting perhaps? Advertising has evolved, I believe the ATL / BTL model actually started to disappear a decade ago. I think advertising does still exist, just in a different, more intelligent and honest form. I also think there is still a need for relevant disruption, it's just about getting cut through, and social media channels are rapidly becoming more crowded than most other forms of traditional media. The fact remains many advertisers still need mass exposure and fragmented (more targeted) media still costs more.

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9 Mar 2011 - 21:36
mark_gorman's picture

Caring about advertising and the likelihood of it going away are somewhat distant relatives. Sure, life's changing. Sure people pay not to have ads on Spotify (but they also pay to have it on their moby so they don't need an iPod - which is it they're paying for?) Sure, you leave advertising for a few months and think it's all gash. Sure, your Aunty Betty doesn't remember that absolutely stunning Lynx ad that was on during the footie while she was watching Corrie. And yes, Mumsnet is terrifically interesting. But, you know what? I think Mr Henry's actually in a post financial need state and is in denial that the advertising industry is still the great marketing monetiser.

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Anonymous (not verified)
10 Mar 2011 - 08:22
Anonymous's picture

I gave up admitting to people that I worked in advertising a long time ago. I got tired of the general abuse.

It's an industry that like to give itself awards - basically because nobody else cares. Somehow having these pointless awards has become more important than, y'know, flogging stuff.

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