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."

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