People have been hating on the word "advertising" for decades. And the hate just keeps escalating. "Should Advertising Agencies Even Be Called Ad Agencies Anymore?" was a trade magazine headline not so long ago. Recently, I watched the word ‘Advertising’ dissolve into animated shards in a colleague’s Keynote. These days, it feels like our industry is suffering from a pretty severe bout of self-loathing. And I don’t understand that.
Gone are the days when advertisers could simply hold viewers and listeners hostage and force them to consume bad messaging. I contend the best agencies and clients have always strived to be captivating even when they had a captive audience. Thanks to the fragmented media landscape and new emerging technologies, this industry must go back to our roots, creatively solving short term business problems or creating business opportunities while at the same time building a brand. And I love that.
In the 1950’s, Howard Luck Gossage famously wrote, "Nobody reads ads. They read what interests them; sometimes it’s an ad." In the 30 years I have been in advertising, the goal has always been to create something that created conversation, that created new behaviors. Water cooler creative. Work that people loved and would share. That hasn’t changed, even though where and how we can create these ideas has. Earned media is not a new idea. In fact, it has been the goal of every agency that labels themselves creative - the belief that creativity gives one an unfair advantage in any space. I love that.
You know what else I love? Today, advertising can no longer be synonymous with a :30 TV commercial. I still believe a :30 piece of film that can make you laugh, cry, think or question is a very powerful piece of communication. (I don’t love that it’s quickly becoming undervalued, a lost art.) However, over the years, by reducing a traditional advertising agency to a very specific media and overly tested executions, we have eroded the client/agency relationship. We must get back to advertising with a capital A. Advertising that takes chances. Advertising that dreams big. Advertising that takes you where you didn’t know you wanted to go.
Sometimes, what we make will be an ad. I love ads. But sometimes, it will be a new product. Sometimes, it will be an experience. Sometimes, it will be intellectual property. Sometimes, it will be unexpected partnerships. Sometimes, it will be user generated. Sometimes, it will be a platform hack. Sometimes, it will be a celebrity endorsement. And some time in the future, it will be something else we haven’t thought of, yet. But every time, when it’s on strategy and in service of a client’s business, it’s Advertising.
So, on this Valentine’s Day, my heart-shaped wish is that we take back the word Advertising and collectively love it for what it is at its creative best: The most powerful economic-driver, business problem-solver, culture-changing, dream-maker in the world.
How can anyone not love that?
Susan Credle is FCB Global’s chief creative officer.