Advertising is alive and well—just with fewer horses and bayonets

Countless articles pronounce the end of advertising, the death of marketing and a gloomy outlook for all involved. From the Harvard Business ReviewForbes, or pretty much every marketing and advertising conference, the headlines shout that we’re in serious trouble. There’s only one problem. It’s all bollocks.

Whilst it’s an easy win to announce the end of advertising as we know it, the underlying point is that we’re simply at a very tangible turning point, and advertising today and in the future will look very different to all that has come before. But as with Romney’s attacks on Obama’s governance of the armed forces last year, I’m inclined to believe that any calls for calamity based on the travails of individual media or channels are somewhat over-stated. We’ve been here before, and as before, some of us will evolve and adapt, and others will choose to bow out. No big deal.

Looking back on the archives, there was a time when JWT was one of the biggest producers of radio shows in the U.S. Not radio ads, but the writing, producing, casting, and broadcast of the shows themselves. I imagine it wasn’t a happy day when someone walked in to the office and told the team that from now on they had 60 (or 30) seconds in between shows to communicate their brand message. Suddenly, long content was out of fashion. Skillsets changed. Writers would be rewarded for being pithy, not for gently unfurled drama. I imagine some people holstered their pens and walked into the sunset, confident that their trade was dead. Others evolved, embraced the new opportunities and survived.

Advertising is persuasion, behaviour change and influence. It’s a group of people dedicated to identifying strategies and tactics likely to achieve objectives. It’s understanding people. It’s working out what will overcome indifference to brands, products and messages. It’s not dead. It’s brilliantly alive, increasingly challenging, and all the more enjoyable for it.

It’s just not easy any more. Which is perhaps why people feel more comfortable announcing its demise. The opportunity lies for those who roll their sleeves up while the pessimists walk away.

  • Simon Lendrum is managing director of JWT. This post originally appeared on his Simon Says blog

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