Changing the Definition of Advertising

I read an article this morning about the definition of advertising in Adweek magazine. The article, entitled “The Definition of Advertising Has Never Been More Unclear  — Source of both opportunity and crisis”   To summarize, the article stated that the term “Advertising” needs to be redefined.

I am having a really hard time understanding why people think the term advertising needs a new definition. It doesn’t. Just because the media changes, doesn’t mean the definition of advertising has changed. Maybe that perception is why there is so much of this so-called “advertising” that I wrote about before out there. Maybe that is the reason why there is so much (sorry to say) bad, ineffective advertising running today.

The Definition of “Advertising” hasn’t changed. The VEHICLES to get the message out HAVE CHANGED.  Now if you find me me a little blunt about this – well I am…

The problem we have is that people are forgetting what advertising is supposed to do! And in that they claim they need a new definition for the term.

This article said in the past there were “four finite canvases” for ads – TV, radio, print and billboard.  And the writer added “sprinkle in a few coupons.”

First of all the “few coupons” happen to be Direct Marketing and that is not a sprinkle. Having worked at Y&R’s Wunderman division, believe me Direct Mail and Direct Response are not “sprinkling in a few coupons.”

Secondly what about product placement in movies? Sponsorship of TV shows, sponsorships of sporting events? Those branding methods have been around since the mediums were invented!  Then you had subway cards, window posters, ad specialty items, and I could keep going.

So to make it look like advertising was accomplished through this small list of four vehicles is wrong.

The article also said well today you have broadcast, cable and streaming, mobile, social media, rich media and went on with a whole paragraph of new technologies. And your point is?  SO WHAT!  THAT doesn’t change the definition of advertising!

The article said we had no ad blockers in the past  – YES WE DID! It was called changing the channel,  turning the page without looking at an ad and tossing junk mail (direct mail) into the trash unopened.

The author spoke of people who insist advertising is “social connectivity: or “must be mobile” or “must be a utility.”  Well HELLO!? Those are salesmen trying to get you to buy their media!  That is no different than radio stations trying to sell you flights of spots, or TV telling you if you are not on TV you can’t expect sales.

Now I am not trying to down the author here. The article was well written – hey Adweek thought so, and it did bring out the truth.

Marketers are having a hard time doing their job right because now they have too many choices – vehicles – to promote products.

So if all these new vehicles (which develop and morph continuously) pose a problem when a client says “I want an ad campaign”, then I suggest these professionals take one step back and look at the foundation of a good campaign.

First: What is the product or service?

Second: What is your specific advertising goal?

Third:  Who is your target audience? (defined to the most detail possible)

Fourth: What are the best media vehicles to make it happen the most cost-effective way possible (and those vehicles should be tested media, not guesses).

See I think the problem with advertising and marketing nowadays is that there are so MANY choices that marketers panic and throw things out to see if it sticks.

I truly believe if they went back to basics they would do better. In today’s changing media environment marketers have to treat each media vehicle like they would have any newspaper, TV station and timeslot. They need to ask themselves “What are the behaviors of my target audience?”  Will they find this ad if I put it here? Will they see it if I put it there?  Is this media conveying the right image for the product?

See advertising should have a purpose. It should have goals. Goals that can possible be realized through placement of a message on specifically targeted vehicles…

How did we forget that?  So Mr. Rothberg, although I enjoyed your article, I respectfully submit you should go back to basics. The definition of “Advertising” is just fine the way it is. People just have to stop and regroup. There has always been a risk in advertising of running ads and wasting a lot of a client’s money. Agencies lost major accounts because of these type of blunders. Yes Advertising people face high risk decisions every day – in marketing positionings, media placement and creative approach. That is what advertising is all about. That is what makes it exciting. That is what makes it a challenge. And that is why I have always loved it.

-Geri Konstantin