Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Future of Advertising



When the chips are down the job of advertising has always been to sell more stuff. That’s the plain unvarnished truth and we need truth telling now more than ever. This job of advertising is just as important – or more important – in down times as it is when the good times roll. As no one is expecting growth in consumption over the coming months (far less the annual 4 percent it’s been for the last 14 years) understanding what people want, what they need, and what inspires them, will be more important than ever.

It’s no secret that the U.S. has been on a spending jag. Saving was pushed firmly onto the back burner with the heat turned not down, but off. Now people are waking up –with a huge headache. The automatic response is simple: ‘stop spending.’ But automatic responses can be counter-productive and this one comes from a very different place to the far smarter ‘start saving’. One is negative, the other positive; one looks backwards to what was, the other forward to what can be. And saving is more than just putting money away, it is also about getting value when you shop, something that requires information communicated in a way that makes sense to your life. Sounds like a job for advertising to me.

Too often it’s claimed that advertising is all about selling people stuff they don’t want and need. If it had been that dumb and short-term advertising would have been up against the wall decades ago. Instead advertising has always been a shape-shifter and it is transforming faster now than at any time in its history. We still need advertising to guide us through the complicated world we live in. We need advertising to help us make smart choices. We need advertising to connect us and entertain and inspire us with the possibilities of the future. We need advertising because it is based on the simple idea that people can be trusted to make their own decisions.