5 reasons why advertising doesn’t work

I recently wrote an article on the state of advertising which you can read here. The post went viral and I have been criticised a lot, especially on Linkedin and you can read the comments here.

I still don’t think advertising is effective. Here are 5 more reasons why advertising doesn’t work

1) I’m not looking to replace advertising. Advertising needs to get its s*** together because it is losing credibility. Moreover, much of it is ignored by consumers who spend their lives multi screening and simply tune out when they see ads.

2) Far too many companies advertise for the wrong reasons, often simply because of their ego. They get a kick out of seeing their brand on a billboard or their friends telling them they saw their brand on a billboard.

Or they advertise because everyone else is advertising but for most of them their advertising never makes an impact. I’m not talking about Unilever, Nestle and the other 8 companies that own 80% of the world’s brands because they have the kind of deep pockets most firms can only dream of. I’m talking about the rest of the companies that make up most economies.

3) My personal belief is that because so many advertising campaigns are too short and don’t run for long enough, the vast majority of advertising is a complete waste of money and that money would be better spent on brand building rather than advertising.

4) Technology has changed the way we live our lives yet we’re still doing things (in terms of advertising) the way we always did. Airlines continue to sell themselves with pretty girls and big smiles and white teeth and with a pretty child holding a teddy bear (OK no child with teddy bear in this example but you get the point).

Exotic destinations use white sandy beaches, purple seas and clear blue skies, banks use ridiculously handsome couples and children and cars use all of the above. It’s boring, unbelievable and doesn’t match the experiences of others who have been there.

And we can read about their experiences online or from our friends. And those experiences, not advertising influence our decisions.

5) Firms would be better off focussing on core branding competencies – a) strategic (inspire & aspire) – trust, credibility & communities, leadership & segmentation. b) Communications – building the narrative collaboratively and social engagement through multiple platforms. c) Execution – on brand organisation able to deliver on promises, data collection and use, monitoring &messaging and d) connection, engagement and collaboration with relevant communities and influencers.

How we do that depends on the organisation, the industry, the customers and budgets and other constraints. Advertising is bandied around as a silver bullet. Want to increase awareness? Advertise. Want to change perceptions? Advertise. Want to increase sales? Advertise. Want to increase share of wallet? Advertise. Got a crisis? Advertise. But there is no silver bullet.

Building a brand takes a strategic approach to multiple actions and requires commitment and buyin from everyone. Advertising is a tactic and for most brands – there are some exceptions, such as a new movie launch, or an exhibition or property launch – it simply doesn’t work and money spent on advertising would be better spent on building a brand.

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