Advertising, Duped?

13 04 2010

10 years ago, Al Ries declared that Advertising was dead (and that by extension, PR was “alive”). 10 years later, although he may have been right about PR, I think he was a little off about advertising…it’s not dead, it’s just been duped.

Over the last 50 years, we’ve had so many different ways to prove that advertising works:

  • The 4Ps (or 6, or however many are floating around today–I’ve even heard of the 4 Cs!)
  • The Image continuum: Any number of concepts labeled as branding, brand imagery, even positioning. Throw differentiation in there, and you’ve got 4-5 different concepts that so similar that they have been used interchangeably.
  • Reputation/Social Marketing: This one is my favorite. The idea is that if you do well (contribute to a charity, rebuild a park, etc.), consumers will buy more from you.

Here’s the kicker:Each one of these concepts are designed to be the “fill-in-the-blank” answer for the following statement:

If I ______, more people will buy my product.

Problem is, you could put any one of the above-mentioned marketing concepts into that statement, but it won’t make it more true than if you filled in the blank with “dance around in a top hat and a cane”. Ok, I exaggerate. But the principle remains:

Just because you have a recognizable logo, just because the advertising is consistent, HECK just because you helped TY Pennington BUILD A HOUSE…none of it is going to ensure a purchase.

No, advertising is not dead, it’s just been duped all these years. All this time forking out loads of money to sponsor television ads for “the big game” (seriously, when is the NFL going to wake up and un-copyright the title of their championship game?!), or to sponsor three people with little actual musical talent to tell up and coming singers that they’re not the next Idol, doesn’t mean I’m going to buy the product. And you know what, I don’t think I’m alone. Just because the ad is catchy, high-profile, or any other current social qualifier that labels it good, doesn’t mean it’s going to get someone to buy. But may I speak for the rest of America and say, “Thank you for the funny ads!”

The irony: Advertising has been drinking the Kool-Aid all these years, and sure, sales may go up (or go down), but do you know who really benefits? The consumer. Thanks to advertising shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars, I get to watch my favorite shows for free.

Now:  do you know what does work? It’s ironic. Find what people want and actually give it to them. Case in point: Denny’s. Remember this?