Is This the Winter of Our Dis-Content?

The Industry Should Not Be So Eager to Replace 'Advertising' with 'Content'

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There's a word that's been creeping into our marketing lexicon that is threatening to replace the word "advertising." Of course, the word to which I'm referring is "content."

For the record, I'm 50 years old, so anything I say should be viewed as the pitiful ramblings of a Luddite who thinks Vines are a delicious licorice snack. That may be partly true (I do think Red Vines are delicious), but hey, I was a Facebook early adopter. I have my own YouTube channel. I even used Periscope recently!

But back to the whole content craze. Why is our industry so hell-bent on putting "advertising" out to pasture? It's a perfectly good word. It sounds a hell of a lot better than "programmatic creative" or (insert favorite buzzword here).

I find it humorous that when you run a commercial on TV, it's called a "commercial." But when you run a slightly longer version of that same commercial on YouTube, it's called "content."

Nobody dares call themselves an ad agency anymore. We're all "digital content providers" or "integrated marketing services firms." Puh-lease.

When I was a kid, lumber yards used to give out yardsticks with their logos on them. Little did they know they were distributing "content" to their "brand loyalists" that provided them "utility."

So why the aversion to the a-word? Has the age of digital enlightenment made us ashamed of our dark analog past? Are we afraid "advertising" connotes "used car salesman," something with which we'd rather not be associated?

Billy Joel said it best:

Everybody's talkin' 'bout the new sound

Funny, but it's still rock and roll to me.

And it's still advertising to me.

When a dance ensemble promoting a wireless carrier spontaneously busts a move in a New York subway station (aka, a flash mob) and the spectacle is captured on video that's shared via YouTube? Advertising.

When a department store's social media team tweets while wearing mittens during the Super Bowl? Advertising.

When Ellen and friends take a selfie with a branded mobile device at the Oscars and tweet it out to every corner of civilization? Again, advertising.

Advertising, advertising, advertising. Say it a few times. It's not such a bad word. It's not like taxidermy or prostitution.

I know it's just semantics, and we're all going through a phase. But all this digi-babble is a waste of energy and creativity -- energy and creativity that could be better spent coming up with brilliant "ads," like those Lowe's "how-to" Vines.

You paint on the canvases available to you at the time. And while today we might paint with different brushes, on different canvases, at its most elemental, ours is still the business of words and pictures. And it's still advertising -- at least it is to me.

I can at least take solace in the fact that you're not reading this in ContentAge.