Advertising is as important as air

Let’s get something right out in the open. It is purely a myth that advertising no longer works. Advertising has always been effective, and as long as modern society continues, it is highly probable that it will continue to play a critical role in keeping businesses’ visibility high.

Advertising is a very broad term. To say that television advertising is dying or dead is largely true, but online advertising is truly in its infancy, and in many ways it has mirrored the infancy of TV advertising. Print advertising and direct mail are alive and well. There are more magazines on the newsstand shelves today that at any other point in time. How do magazines pay the bills and make a profit? Advertising. How would you categorize that pillar of search engine marketing, Google AdWords? (Hint: It starts with "Ad") Advertising, albeit very simplified.

Advertising doesn’t work when it is created without strategy. Ad campaigns that fail to connect with their target market don’t work. The fact is, they never have worked. Sure, companies could spend millions on media a few years back and get some sort of return, but campaigns that are lacking in concrete strategy, research, creative, execution, or good media placement have always failed to gain the maximum return on investment. There have been more than enough of those types of campaigns to convince nearly everyone that advertising does not work. The agencies who created them are dying off, as they should. Agencies who create with integrity are restoring the good reputation that advertising deserves.

I read an article in a trade magazine about nine years ago that claimed that print advertising doesn’t work. As his example, the author cited the Milk advertising campaign. He quoted the increase in ad expenditure versus the dramatic drop in sales over a 30 year period. Based on this data, he concluded that advertising doesn’t work.

There is a fatal flaw in that logic. 40 years ago now, milk was one of a relatively few bottled beverages on the market. Today there are literally thousands of products in a dramatically splintered beverage category, all competing for the same market share that milk used to command. Not only that, but with all of the bad publicity that milk has gotten, it’s no wonder at all that milk sales dropped faster than your stomach can protest the ingesting of that puss-laden, hormone-injected wonder beverage that should rightly be fed to calves (even calves deserve the organic variety). Other beverage companies have provided healthier products and better value, and people have spoken with their dollars. You can’t blame the decline of milk’s popularity on poor advertising. The milk industry would likely have suffered irreparable damage had they not been advertising.

Marketing professionals sometimes make outrageous claims just to stir the pot, and that’s good. Somebody has to do it. I’m thankful for the pot stirring because it makes my job easier, and it gives us all some good, outrageous stuff to bat about.

Here’s a stir from my wooden spoon:
Advertising is as vital to business success as value. If you are not offering value, you need a new offering. If you are not advertising, you are squandering your potential and cutting off your air supply. I encourage every business to take a deep breath and consider how smart, strategic advertising can work for you.

Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.


Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.

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