4A's Conference

Study: Majority of Americans Give Two Thumbs Up to Advertising as a Profession

If These Stats Are to Be Trusted, Adland Shouldn't Be So Down on Itself

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Turns out the ad industry has something to smile about.
Turns out the ad industry has something to smile about. Credit: Ron Jaffe/AMC

Nearly four out of 10 consumers say they "love" advertising -- and 69% said they think advertising has the power to make the world a better place.

Those are just two of the findings in a study that McCann is unveiling next week as part of the agency's global thought leadership initiative, "Truth Central." The goal is to create original research to help marketers get into the minds of consumers. Previous topics have probed perceptions of politics, privacy consumers in the digital era, and how mobile devices have impacted our lives.

This is the first time the unit --in partnership with the 4A's-- has turned the research on itself with a "Truth About Advertising" study to uncover the perception gap between what consumers think about advertising compared with the sentiments of the men and women who work in the biz.

Ad Age got a sneak peak at the findings, which are being presented on Monday in New Orleans at the annual 4A's confab. The survey was sent to 1,000 U.S. consumers, nearly 500 agency employees, a dozen top industry leaders, and was rounded out with man-on-the-street interviews on Madison Avenue. And indeed, there's little doubt based on the findings that there's a disconnect between ad men and women see themselves and how the average American see the profession.

The bad news first.

People in advertising are really down on themselves -- as evidenced by the fact half of the respondents who worked in the industry believes the heyday of advertising was over 20 years ago.

Among those that are in advertising:

  • 56% think that people in advertising secretly wish they were doing something more creative
  • 40% think we drink too much
  • 39% think that people in advertising are more likely to suffer from anxiety/depression

The survey asked some silly questions to consumers, which yielded underwhelming results. Only 7% of Americans would choose an ad exec to have sex with, the survey found, and only 1% of Americans would trust an ad exec with a secret. Ouch.

But the good news is that consumers don't hate advertising. On the contrary they admitted that they enjoy ads, and thought it would be a fun job to have.

  • 71% of consumers feel positive about advertising as a profession
  • 67% of consumers feel positive about the advertising they see around them
  • 57% of consumers say advertising gives them something to talk about
  • 39% of consumers love advertising

Additionally the survey says that ad jobs help the country maintain a healthy economy -- with advertising in some way supporting an estimated 15% of American jobs (citing stats by a firm called IHS Global Insight).

"Surprisingly, the majority of consumers (69%) think advertising can change the world for the better," said Laura Simpson, global director of McCann's "Truth Central" in a statement. "This is profound considering that the industry suffers from something akin to a persecution complex. In truth we should be very proud of what we do."