Ad­ver­tis­ing is meant to sell stuff, not win awards

Like it or not, the in­dus­try is there to serve the needs of its clients

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - MEDIA& MARKETING - PAUL KIN­SEY

DVERTISING is not a grown-up pro­fes­sion. It’s an im­ma­ture in­dus­try that tries to hide its weak­nesses by be­ing con­de­scend­ing, dressed in Con­verse Sneak­ers and a suit.

It gets worse each year. Scam work wins awards and the fi­bre of pro­fes­sion­al­ism crum­bles. We are al­most im­mune by now to cheats and their al­lur­ing cheat-ad­ver­tis­ing. Creative work only ap­pre­ci­ated by those who cre­ated it. And fash­ion vic­tims.

A good dis­tri­bu­tion plan can sell more prod­uct than a R3 mil­lion TV ad­vert. Agen­cies try to con­vince clients what they need is an “epic cam­paign”, in­spired by over­seas work, that will win awards. The agency will tell the client this is good for their brand. Award- win­ning brands are bet­ter. Right? When re­ally it’s about bur­nish­ing the lus­tre of the agency. It’s un­scrupu­lous and vain­glo­ri­ous and it’s killing the in­dus­try.

Award-win­ning ad­ver­tis­ing can fail. There I said it. The mar­ket may shrug at it. More of­ten than not, it does. Sim­i­lar re­sults would have been achieved with a strat­egy that cost less than a third of the “fully

Ain­te­grated cam­paign that changed the way con­sumers in­ter­act with ad­ver­tis­ing”. This hap­pens of­ten. Not every­thing needs to be de­signed by Rem Kool­haas. Clients are wak­ing up. They know creative ad­ver­tis­ing isn’t all ad­ver­tis­ing needs to be. When they in­sist, the agency skulks away, bad­mouthing the clients: “If they would just lis­ten, they would have the most amaz­ing cam­paign ever.”

So it be­grudg­ingly makes some­thing that ticks all the client’s boxes in an unin­spired mope and it bores ev­ery­one. No gold Lo­erie. No ex­panded mar­ket share. Bad ad­ver­tis­ing all round.

The Lo­eries? Well done, guys. “We’re no longer an ad­ver­tis­ing award, we’re a cre­ativ­ity award.”

You may as well ad­mit that in­dus­try stan­dards have all but col­lapsed so you’ve widened the scope of the awards to di­lute the fail­ure. You are en­cour­ag­ing fak­ery. In some cat­e­gories the work needn’t have run or even ex­ist. A way to save agen­cies the money they used to spend flight­ing bad work at 1am on af­ter the soft porn. Which is re­ally the best place for it.

What will hap­pen next is de­struc- tion from within. Ter­mites. Fake work will win. We will chase our own tails. Scam work begets more scam work. Work that need­lessly, ego­tis­ti­cally, wastes a lot of money when sim­pler, bet­ter so­lu­tions ex­ist is work that has no ad­ver­tis­ing merit.

And for those “in the field”, as it were, try to re­mem­ber: we are ad­ver­tis­ers. Not short movie mak­ers. Not strug­gling artists. Not Michel Gondry or Bjork. Why aren’t we do­ing our jobs? As ad­ver­tis­ers we pro­mote and sell brands and their prod­ucts. With all the co­caine and vin­tage T-shirts stripped away, that’s what we do. We ad­ver­tise. On be­half of clients who pay us. We should be try­ing to find the best pos­si­ble so­lu­tion for them. We ought to be po­si­tion­ing clients bet­ter, sit­u­at­ing them in their mar­kets, deep­en­ing their ap­peal, strength­en­ing their share, win­ning them the hearts and minds of their mar­kets. Striv­ing to have a piece of work in our port­fo­lio that would make po­ets cry should be the least of our ob­jec­tives. Un­less, of course, hav­ing po­ets cry will def­i­nitely sell more Omo ac­cord­ing to un­de­ni­able and ex­ten­sive re­search.

Not that we should be the client’s bitch. Clients are of­ten wor­thy of the loathing we se­cretly vent on them. Short­sighted coun­try mice un­will­ing to no­tice that con­sumers are ac­tu­ally peo­ple and not the sum to­tal of their spend­ing habits.

It just means we need to be bet­ter, more pro­fes­sional, more suc­cess­ful at de­liv­er­ing what they need. We should be guid­ing them to riches. Con­cepts, art di­rec­tion and copy­writ­ing are not all there is to ad­ver­tis­ing.

Grow­ing mar­ket share is ad­ver­tis­ing. We should ad­ver­tise as ad­ver­tis­ing should be done. With clar­ity, el­e­gance and use­ful­ness. We should take the pro­fes­sion se­ri­ously and our­selves far less so. It’s about the work that will work best for the client. Case by case. Job by job. Day by day.

If you want to spend your life mak­ing pretty pic­tures, be­come an artist.

This is an edited ver­sion of a piece which first ap­peared in the ezine Ma­hala. For more thought-pro­vok­ing ob­ser­va­tions on life, cul­ture and mu­sic, go to­

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