Jean-claude Saade:

Left of Ad­ver­tis­ing? What is

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What Is Hap­pen­ing to Ad­ver­tis­ing?

Ever since we en­tered the ad­ver­tis­ing world we have wit­nessed mul­ti­ple waves of change and chal­lenges, but some­how, this industry has man­aged to pre­serve its eco­nomic and so­cial pur­pose.

Ad­ver­tis­ing as a func­tion has prob­a­bly started with the early hu­man so­ci­eties, but has only taken a for­mal de­scrip­tion and a clear role as a pro­fes­sion dur­ing the last cen­tury. Since then, ad­ver­tis­ing was af­fected by dif­fer­ent trends and move­ments yet has evolved and adapted to dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions and in­no­va­tions till the present time.

This is not meant to be a his­tor­i­cal over­view of ad­ver­tis­ing, rather a piece based on per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence with some ex­am­ples; change and chal­lenges never seem to be the end of the line for ad­ver­tis­ing, just the trig­ger of a new era that calls for a new ap­proach and fresh think­ing.

The 1980s and 1990s were the era when the multi­na­tion­als ex­panded and grad­u­ally brought all the global ad­ver­tis­ing brand names to al­most ev­ery mar­ket. That was a huge phase of change but the end re­sult was a sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment of the industry in terms of tools, sys­tems, knowhow, and ex­po­sure.

The ar­rival of the Me­dia Buy­ing Units (MBUS) at the dawn of 21st cen­tury brought an­other painful trans­for­ma­tion for the ad agen­cies as it took part of their in­come and al­lo­cated it un­der spe­cialised “part­ner com­pa­nies”.

Around 2005, an­other wave of spe­cialised com­pa­nies such as brand­ing com­pa­nies, de­sign houses and other spe­cialised brand con­sul­tan­cies took an­other bite from the tra­di­tional ad­ver­tis­ing pie.

Th­ese are not the only events that in­flu­enced ad­ver­tis­ing over the past 25 years. The industry was al­ways af­fected by all the eco­nomic, so­cial and po­lit­i­cal events glob­ally and on a re­gional level.

There will be fat years, and there will be lean

years, but it is go­ing to rain. Don Draper – Mad Men, Sea­son Three, Out of Town

The lat­est wave of change was trig­gered by the global and mas­sive de­vel­op­ment of dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion in its var­i­ous forms (on­line, so­cial & mobile). This trend has led to the cre­ation of a new breed of spe­cialised com­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vices and agen­cies.

How­ever, this is just an­other phase of the brand com­mu­ni­ca­tion saga. New ser­vices and tech­nolo­gies will keep ar­riv­ing and will re­or­gan­ise the re­la­tion­ship be­tween brand own­ers and com­mu­ni­ca­tion spe­cial­ists. New in­no­va­tions will al­ways cre­ate new ser­vices and new types of com­mu­ni­ca­tion agen­cies and in turn, it will make some older ser­vices less needed.

The con­tin­u­ous de­vel­op­ment and democrati­sa­tion of dig­i­tal tools will even­tu­ally of­fer ad­ver­tis­ers more con­trol over their com­mu­ni­ca­tion ac­tiv­i­ties and bud­gets.

What Is Lost from Ad­ver­tis­ing?

With ev­ery wave, the ad­ver­tis­ing industry has lost im­por­tant el­e­ments and gained some other as­sets, prov­ing above all it still has plenty of new tricks up its sleeve.

Over the years, ad­ver­tis­ing has lost im­por­tant sources of in­come whether by re­lin­quish­ing cer­tain ser­vices to spe­cialised com­pa­nies or by los­ing the old com­fort­able com­pen­sa­tion mod­els and adopt­ing more com­pet­i­tive and tight for­mu­las.

Be­sides the financial ques­tion, ad­ver­tis­ing has lost a lot of its ini­tial “mys­tique” and in­flu­ence over clients and brands partly be­cause of the cre­ation of a plethora of con­sult­ing ser­vices of­ten over­lap­ping with the ad­ver­tis­ing ex­per­tise.

On the same level, ad­ver­tis­ing as a pro­fes­sion, has also lost much of its “cool fac­tor” that for many decades has at­tracted the best tal­ent to the industry – and some­times the worst el­e­ments.

A lot of valu­able as­sets were lost over the past three decades mainly be­cause the industry does not have a co­her­ent strat­egy in place to con­front con­sec­u­tive move­ments that threaten its ex­is­tence.

What Is Left of Ad­ver­tis­ing?

At this stage of the game, it's go­ing to be, once more, up to the ad­ver­tis­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion play­ers to sort out what the most vi­able op­tions are and what makes them most valu­able in the eyes of their clients and part­ners.

The var­i­ous waves of change have deeply trans­formed how ad­ver­tis­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tion ser­vices are cre­ated and de­liv­ered but it did not af­fect the core role of this industry, its main con­tri­bu­tion to the busi­ness com­mu­nity, to the econ­omy and so­ci­ety at large. Tech­nol­ogy and de­liv­ery chan­nels will keep chang­ing but the “core role” of com­mu­ni­ca­tion con­tin­ues to be rel­e­vant and in-de­mand.

If we were to take out all the tools, the tech­niques and the ve­hi­cles of com­mu­ni­ca­tion that are sub­ject to change, what will be left of the ad­ver­tis­ing busi­ness?

The an­swer is tal­ent and ex­per­tise in gen­er­at­ing ideas and de­liv­er­ing them in com­pelling and at­trac­tive ways re­gard­less of pro­duc­tion tech­nique or the me­dia chan­nel used.

Once we re­de­fine the role of ad­ver­tis­ing as “the busi­ness of gen­er­at­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion ideas” we will see threats and op­por­tu­ni­ties in a to­tally dif­fer­ent light and we will be more con­fi­dent and en­thu­si­as­tic about the fu­ture of the industry.

Tech­nol­ogy, sys­tems, and me­dia chan­nels will keep chang­ing; and, ideas will re­main nec­es­sary for busi­ness and the de­vel­op­ment of brands.

Ideas can move peo­ple, push sales, drive mar­kets, and change the whole econ­omy.

Ideas can build brands, con­nect con­sumers, and tran­scend cul­tures to cre­ate a shared un­der­stand­ing and a bet­ter way of life at a global level.

As long as ad­ver­tis­ing will be able to gen­er­ate unique and com­pelling ideas it will be able to defy time and change to stay rel­e­vant to­day and to­mor­row.

Ad­ver­tis­ing as a pro­fes­sion, has also lost much of its “cool fac­tor” that for many decades has at­tracted the best tal­ent to the industry – and some­times the worst el­e­ments.


In this spe­cial piece to Arabad Jean-claude Saade, Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of Man­i­festo Con­sult­ing, tack­les the chal­lenges ad­ver­tis­ing has faced over the past three decades up till the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion that many peo­ple be­lieve is the end of ad­ver­tis­ing.

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