Commentary by Scott Donaton

Advertising Means More Than Advertising Today

Rethinking Our Marketing Vocabulary in the Post-Advertising Age

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It's a conversation I've had periodically with different people over the years, but never with the frequency and intensity with which I find myself engaged in it now. The challenge they
Scott Donaton, editor of 'Advertising Age.'

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put to me is whether Advertising Age should change its name to reflect the realities of the wider marketing world we already cover.

Of course the focus on our name (which I would -- not surprisingly -- argue is one of the best media brands in the world, and one with nearly 75 years of equity) is merely the jumping-off point to a broader conversation about the need for marketers to confront and release their historical biases. To redefine their world.

Redefining 'advertising'
The issue isn't really whether Advertising Age should change its name; it's that we must rewrite the definition of the word "advertising."

Even the word marketing, while broader and embracing more than media advertising, is inadequate to the task in its current definition. For too many people, marketing means advertising plus what some people stunningly still refer to as "below the line" disciplines, such as direct marketing and public relations.

What we're really talking about is consumer touch points, and the brand values and attributes that are communicated at each of them. It's the reason Coca-Cola's Steve Heyer views his soft-drink delivery trucks as mobile billboards. It's the reason Larry Light of McDonald's views the fast-feeder's takeout bags and cups as print media and its employee uniforms as brand statements. It's the reason Procter & Gamble has elevated the role of design to a grander, shopper-centric position it calls the "first moment of truth." It's the reason I once suggested Red Lobster reallocate some of its media dollars to buy more vacuum cleaners for its restaurants.

Still centered on the :30
Forget above the line and below the line. Forget lines. Forget silos. Forget competing disciplines and the eternal scrap for what they view as their rightful share of the almighty dollar. It's about consumer touch points, but for all the talk in the business, there hasn't been enough action. The industry's compensation systems, its measurement tools, its vocabulary is still constructed around a 30-second-spot-centric system. To truly move forward, many of those models will have to be torn down and rebuilt.

"We are still too dependent on marketing tactics that are not in touch with today's consumer," Procter & Gamble marketing chief Jim Stengel said in a very tough speech at the American Association of Advertising Agencies' media conference in Orlando, Fla., earlier this month. "We must bring experts to the table who know our consumers better than we do."

Sales as ROI
Stengel called on the industry to develop a way to measure what he called "holistic ROI," to determine the combined effect of a total marketing program. But my colleague Jonah Bloom points out that in a company that truly views every consumer touch point -- design, retail space, word of mouth, price and, oh yes, advertising -- as a marketing function, the simplest and best return-on-investment measure is sales. If you get it right, the cash register will ring.

Stengel confirmed a similar view when he demanded better measurement of advertising's impact on purchase intent, which he called "the ultimate goal."

He also made clear that change is not an option. "P&G is not going to take it anymore," he said, "and you shouldn't either."

Maybe we need new words for a new world. More likely, we need to redefine those we already know.

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