Gordon Young's Leader: why Steve Henry is right to say advertising may go away

This is the Leader Gordon Young has drafted for the next edition of The Drum which goes to press in the next 90 minutes or so. This is your chance to influence what we finally print.

He is a legend. A true advertising guru. So when he stood up last week at a MiNetwork event and said that advertising may 'go away' the rest of the world sat up and took notice.

The fact that somebody like Henry is prepared to say such a thing is a sign of the profound changes that are going on in the business.

But its not this seismic change in itself which is awe-inspiring. It is the sheer speed of it. Tried and tested models – some of which have worked almost since the invention of the printing press – are collapsing before our eyes.

Some newspaper circulations and classified sections for example are recording year-on-year declines in the region of 25%. At that rate they'll be gone in four years.

But through the dust and debris new opportunities are becoming apparent. And that is why Henry's pronouncement, made at a MiNetwork event, seems more interesting than depressing.

The context was the power of social media. How brands could directly engage with consumers, and allow consumers to directly engage with them – thanks to new sites such as MumsNet.

In comparison traditional advertising is like 'wasps at a picnic' said Henry.. Annoying, unwelcome but a necessary evil if you are to enjoy the sandwiches and sunshine.

This insight challenges the very essence of what we think of as advertising. Perhaps some of the characteristics which were once deemed good might now be considered gauche.

For stand-out read distracting. For disruptive read irritating. For share of voice read annoying.

What all this means in practice is hard to quantify. But there is one certainty; those who are fixated with advertising will not survive. As a standalone discipline it is in the process of becoming extinct. The centre break of Coronation Street is no longer the answer to every brief.

But looking at things from a positive perspective, the reason for this change is that marketers simply have better tools at their disposal.

And now there is a growing band of agencies and creatives who are adapting to this economic climate change. They have remembered that first and foremost their offer is not advertising, but great ideas.

And great ideas can be applied to any platform whether its social, digital, events or sponsorship. The creative industry is changing. But as long as it keep delivering what the clients need and the consumer wants then, unlike pure advertising, it won't go away.

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