15 March 2011 - 1:30pm | posted by | 7 comments

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

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

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.


15 Mar 2011 - 13:55
mark_astle's picture

A well reasoned article with an overly reactionary headline. Social, digital, events, sponsorship etc are all forms of advertising. People seem to think 'Advertising' only covers press and TV. And they aren't going away in any case.

Anonymous (not verified)
15 Mar 2011 - 14:05
Anonymous's picture

Because that's what advertising agencies have been saying for years....now that TV and press are struggling or on the way out, everything is advertising. Funny that. For direct engagement, read direct marketing. But surely advertising would want to be seen as that?

15 Mar 2011 - 14:16
tim_newton's picture

The IPA defines 'advertising' as 'The means of providing the most persuasive possible selling message to the right prospects at the lowest possible cost.'

If that's what we're talking about then it will never go away. That doesn't define advertising by channel, but by purpose.

The explosion of available channels just means that we all have to work harder to find the best mix of channel for our target market.

Forget channel neutrality, this is about channel engagement.

Good agencies (and clients!) are the ones who understand that it's the power of the idea allied to the most appropriate use of channel that will deliver results.

The 'model' is changing in front of our very eyes, things will never be the same again.

Anyone who still thinks in terms on 'on', 'off', 'above', 'below' even 'through' the line has missed the point - and the boat!

Anonymous (not verified)
15 Mar 2011 - 14:29
Anonymous's picture

Exactly what they said fifteen years ago with DM. Social media is just the latest wonder cure for having to spend £2m on an ad campaign. Useful? Yes. A replacement for ATL mediums? No.

As I said the other day on the original article, nothing will ever replace the flattery and perceived glamour of brands spending an obscene amount of money on attracting our attention. It's human nature - we want to be led. We want to be told what's tasty and what looks good. And we believe this far more when we hear it from someone standing on a soap box speaking to a crowd than when we hear it from someone standing next to us in the crowd.

Anonymous (not verified)
15 Mar 2011 - 14:41
Anonymous's picture

Hang on a minute Gordon, haven't you lot just persuaded us lot to spunk a load of money on entering your Advertising awards? Ponitless going to the ceremony then people - save your dough. I understand what Henry is saying. But he's been saying stuff like this forever. In fact, saying stuff like this is now what he does now - he hasn't written an ad for years. Yes, the business is changing, yes there is less reliance on traditional media and models, and new ways of reaching people, but it's still, I'm afraid, called advertising.

15 Mar 2011 - 15:24
Gordon Young's picture

Thanks for the feedback everybody. Will go through these comments to see if the leader should be adapted.

Anonymous (not verified)
15 Mar 2011 - 18:10
Anonymous's picture

Who is the leader and in what way is he adaptable?


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