Since when did advertising become a dirty word?

Fran Clayton.jpeg
By Fran Clayton (left), chief strategy officer, DDB Sydney

If advertising is the art and craft of selling products and building brands, then I'm proud to say that I work at an advertising agency.

As he often did, Bill Bernbach spoke the truth when he said, "The purpose of advertising is to sell. That is what the client is paying for and if that goal does not permeate every idea you get, every word you write, every picture you take, you are a phony and you ought to get out of the business."

When I first read this quote, it struck a chord. It reminded me to be proud, not apologetic for what we do. It made me think of the euphemisms that people in our industry use to distance themselves from the word advertising. They'd rather use words like 'content' and 'ideas', but what's the point of content and ideas if they do not sell? I'm not talking about short, spikey results, but real sustainable business growth. That's what we should be paid to do, that's the whole point of our industry and lately it seems we've lost sight of that.
I think it's time we started sticking up for ads and advertising. Like most things in life, advertising can be shit, but it can also be amazing. It's no wonder that we as an industry struggle to prove our value when we can't even take pride in our own product. 

I'm not advocating for a return to the past, and when I use the word advertising I'm not talking about traditional formats, although they deserve to be defended too. An ad is anything that uses creativity to communicate, whether it be a film in a feed or a statue on the street. 

I know that our industry needs to evolve and grow. But let's not do away with the art and craft of telling stories, evoking emotions, challenging assumptions, moving people to act, and ultimately building brands. The value we offer must be much more than coming up with ideas and creating stuff. 

7 Comments

adland said:

Advertising isn't a dirty word, but when people think that a) advertising can change the world, or b) advertising has a genuine impact on people's lives... it's just dilusional. The industry does suffer from an over-confidence or belief those 2 things.

English man in Oz said:

The smartest thing I heard from a planner in a long time.

BJ said:

Too true - well said!

Good article said:

A great article Fran. Clearly a smart planner.
But this from an agency that drop tens of thousands of dollars in to a project to win an award. Agencies need to focus more on selling on behalf of clients and if the work is good enough on the budget given, then the awards will come. The reason it's be e a dirty word is unfortunately because of the not just the agency you work for but many others like DDB.

Fran I hope more great articles like this come from you and you put the positive back in to an amazing Industry.

Raj Marwah said:

nice one, Fran. Cuts through the BS!
(we left advertising in capable hands!)
:-)

Texas Tony said:

In the real world yes, advertising does tend to be a dirty word. Most people find ads annoying, unless they are really great and cut through earning some semblance of respectability.

There is also the whole moral argument against the vast selling of crap people don't need, which is another issue the real world has with advertising.

Next time you're at a party and you tell someone what you do, if they don't work in advertising, see how they respond.

At the end of the day it's probably a better idea if people in advertising get some perspective as to what it is they actually do and accept what that means, or go do something else.

You can't have it all.

Will said:

Yeah like this

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