Advertising Week

Advertising Mourned on First Day of Advertising Week

MacDonald, Graf, Beers, Gallop Lead Mock Funeral Service

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Advertising Week kicked off with a funeral. The session stayed true to the theme with floral sprays, a casket, robed choir and the eulogists dressed in black. Even the program was engraved with "In loving memory of advertising 1864-2012." Among the more interesting one-liners was the comparison of advertising to other things gone too soon -- just like Michael Jackson and the McRib -- and the many headlines declaring its demise, including a CNN report that can be accessed "right after this commercial from Google," cracked Matt MacDonald, co-chief creative officer at JWT New York.

"Many of the articles proclaiming the death of this or that fail to appreciate those parts that endure," said Ryan Kutscher, another co-chief creative officer at JWT New York, after the event. "Ironically, holding a funeral was the most positive 'ceremony' we could think of to bring those things forth. But it also came as a kind of warning, as our speakers eloquently pointed out there are some things that we need to change, or one day we'll be holding a funeral for real."

At the fake funeral, BFG9000 founder Gerry Graf mourned TV advertising, noting the industry has tried like hell to kill it for 75 years -- and did -- only to see it now arisen from the dead to haunt online like "a pissed off TV zombie." Don't believe it? Just try to skip the ads streaming on "Fringe," he taunted. "You can't!" Instead, you're served ads for Lowe's and end up building a porch, he said. And while you are, "the undead TV zombie is laughing its decaying ass off."

The slightly more serious notes were struck by former Ogilvy & Mather CEO Charlotte Beers and Ifwerantheworld.com founder Cindy Gallop. Ms. Gallop blamed the industry itself for letting advertising become viewed as some sort of punishment that one must be "cajoled" or "blackmailed" into viewing in order to get something free or watch online video without cost. Instead, she said it should be used as a force for good to change the world or as a means to bring consumers things "of utility and value" rather than a force-fed message.

Both of them delivered shots at advertising for being male dominated, Ms. Beers noting that "maybe the problem is that CEOs are just too male," and Ms. Gallop noting just 3% of ad directors are female.

The closing sequence featured deliberately crude animations of J. Walter Thompson, Leo Burnett, Bill Bernbach and David Ogilvy declaring advertising alive -- which surely had those four luminaries spinning in their graves.

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