Advertising is in crisis

Advertising continues to lose its credibility with consumers and brands and as a result has to resort to doing whatever it can to grab our attention. There is an advertising agency with an office on the Federal Highway in Malaysia that has the tagline, “Truth well told” but the truth is the truth is rarely explored in advertising today.

There was a time when ads made sense. When ads gave us some information about a product that made us want to learn more or even test or buy the product. Back in the day, we used to see an ad and scramble for a pen and paper to write the brand name down in the hope that when we went shopping we would be able to find the brand on a shelf or in a showroom.

Nowadays, ads seem to be created for awards panels or to impress us with their creativity, the cleverness of the photography, the humour, the beauty of the models, their entertainment value.

Coco de Mer: X from TBWA\London on Vimeo.

This latest ad from Coco De Mer (I think they are a lingerie brand but they might be a brothel, advertising agency, soft porn company or high class call girl agency) was rated ad of the day by respected advertising publication adweek.

Walter Campbell, the creator of the ad is quoted as saying, “The erotic doesn’t get the same overt attention as everything else on the cultural menu, so we created a film to surprise, excite and most importantly, encourage people to delve that little bit deeper into their fantasies—to reignite that connection.”

Sorry, but that’s not what advertising is about. Advertising should be credible, it should be useful to me, it should encourage me to learn about a product or service, show how it is relevant to me and how it can be useful to me and if it features people like me – testimonials are even better – I might buy into it.

According to this report, 84% of Millennials don’t trust traditional advertising and it is probably ads like the one above that have contributed to this lack of trust. This lack of trust is causing a crisis in advertising because trust is key.

Until advertising accepts this and gets back to basics, the crisis in advertising will continue and that trust will be lost, perhaps for ever.

My book “Stop advertising and start branding” will be out soon. To register for an early copy, please contact me here or on Twitter @brandconsultant


12 thoughts on “Advertising is in crisis

  1. Marcus – first and foremost, you’re probably aware that the “Truth, Well Told” slogan goes back to the McCann of the 60s and 70s, if not before. Pivoting off that is, well, a shade old school to say the least. Secondarily, I’m not sure what you think advertising about, but moral ethos and veracity probably isn’t either a KPI or a job description – in fact, right now, it’s damned hard to figure out what is/is not an “ad” (Twitter feed, Instagram Post, LI inmail, you name it). Last, and maybe why I’m a bit sparky on your post – disaster, end of advertising, crisis just ain’t so. It’s a bit like the IBM global media trends studies from 2004 – 09 in forecasting the end of TV. Right now TV viewership is up and both US domestically and globally; media rates are up, globally as well; in fact, traditional advertising is up – globally. Your call – but the trends are more subtle and nuanced and less determinative than glib characterizations might suggest.


    1. Jef
      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment, it is much appreciated.

      1) That slogan is still being used by an ad agency in Malaysia today. I will take a photo of it next time I drive past and send it to you.
      2) It’s very easy to figure out what is an ad, mostly because ad agencies continue to use them to try and interupt and interest consumers by carpet bombing them with corporate driven messages that ignore the fact that few consumers are listening.
      3) TV viewership is up, media rates are up and traditional advertising is up – talk about glib and old school. As you know, 80% of the world’s brands are owned by a dozen or so companies who keep throwing money at advertising for sales growth of 0.5 – 1.5% per annum if they are lucky.
      4) Advertising is a very sexy business and lazy bosses are seduced by it’s appeal. Advertising as is is doomed, especially when firms churn out this nonsense.


  2. Interesting topic and one with high relevance for destination marketers. Authenticity is key. If advertising manages to reinvent itself, then it will survive, perhaps renamed as brand communication agency. If there is one thing advertisers have, then creativity and imagination 😉


    1. Florian, thanks for your comment. I think some agencies have creativity and imagination, a lot are living on the creativity and imagination of people who no longer work at the agency. I totally agree with your comment about destination marketers. Many of them really need to up their collective communications game.


  3. Marcus, a refreshing view on the current status of our industry. I sometimes look at some of the ads and am genuinely perplexed and wondering what the hell it was about. Somewhere over the years, both clients and agencies have lost sight of the brand strategy plan. Combine this with new avenues of social media, electronic one on one communications and I believe we all need to stand back, take a deep breath and start to understand the brand we are working with.


    1. Rob, I totally agree. Sure some advertising makes sense, especially for events, new movies etc but most of it is wasted and the firms wasting their money are as much to blame as the agencies. They need to stop being lazy and start being smart. It’s like playing tennis in 2015 with a racket from 1995.


  4. HI Marcus, great article and insight into what has gone wrong with advertising today. I have clients send me ads that I don’t even understand what they are trying to get across. I was always told the KISS way of putting something together is the best and always will be. I lost a client recently as the ads we had been doing to keep her happy had not actually been working so they did not keep her happy. Which made us do a major rethink on going back to what we knew worked best.


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