Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today to pay tribute to a force that has shaped the economy of the world for hundreds of years, but finally breathed her last in the wee hours of the morning of December 31, 2016. Join me as we say our final goodbyes to Advertising.
A mutual friend of ours, affectionately known as Wikipedia, remembers Advertising as an “openly sponsored, non-personal message to promote or sell.” Although this flag-bearer of the marketing communications race is no longer with us, the business fraternity fondly remembers all that she stood for, and all that she achieved.
From her conception in the 18th century, Advertising had been a connector between businesses and customers. It was during her adolescence, though, that Advertising really became an engine of the economy. Under the guidance of men whose names still adorn the walls of our agencies, she grew to be influential, putting vivid images and jingles into our mind that we could neither avoid, nor forget.
Although she was a slow learner, Advertising really was a benefactor to us all. We asked her to help us move items off the shelf, and she came through. We asked her to help us create media empires, to fund our mad men lifestyles, to grow garage ventures into international conglomerates, and she diligently worked to make all our desires come true. She never said ‘no’ to any of us.
Sadly, none of us noticed Advertising’s health deteriorating with the stress we were placing upon her. We were all too busy milking her for all she was worth. For hidden deep inside the behemoth was a heart that pumped on consumer attention. Few of us realised that this very lifeblood was fighting a cancerous infection in the guise of fatigue and general consumer distrust.
As the years piled on, this distrust spread across the entire body of Advertising. Consumers now loathed ads, in every shape, size, and medium possible. And they went around with their pitchforks and their ad blockers to make sure that she wouldn’t bother them again.
In the last year alone, can you honestly say that you enjoyed Advertising? That you didn’t cringe at the ridiculous product placement in the last film, that you didn’t completely avoid the 10 billboards in a row showcasing the same visual and that you wished there was more Khaled on your morning drive radio than adverts? Who among us is not guilty of clicking ‘skip’ on YouTube ads as soon as the option is enabled?
As the cancer of spammy, unimaginative, shove-my-brand-down-your-throat ads spread, Advertising became less of a tool and more of a necessary evil. On her deathbed, Advertising confessed to me that this was not what she wanted. She tried to explain that she was not a sell-out; no, rather she wanted to be of the best service to her two dependents – brands and agencies.
92% of the Millennials trust an Influencer rather than an advertisement or even a celebrity endorsement.
But it was Advertising’s parting revelation that really shook me. She said she had a child in the last few years, but had hidden it from the world. The child was called Influence. It was beautiful because it helped real evangelists of the brand (not hired hands) speak directly to the real potential customers.
Beaming with pride, she told me that 92% of the Millennials trust an Influencer rather than an advertisement or even a celebrity endorsement. In essence, she felt that this new generation of marketing communications will redeem her own sins and win back the trust of consumers.
And just like that, Advertising was dead. Her once vibrant presence was now reduced to a mere shell, but still some brands and agencies tugged at her feet, hoping she would spring back to life. But I knew the jig was up. No amount of new media or fancy tech can bring her back.
Advertising, thank you for everything you have given us. May you be at peace.
Umair Kazi is Partner at Ishtehari.