4A's Media Conference Coverage

MediaWorks Notebook: Washington Loves to Hate Advertising

Also, AOL's Ted Leonsis Says 'Everything Is Going to Be Free'

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MediaWorks is in Las Vegas this week for the American Association of Advertising Agencies Media Conference and Trade Show. We'll be posting updates here as the day's sessions unfold, so check back often.

9:10 a.m.: Everyone Loves to Hate Advertising

4A's Senior VP-Counsel Adonis E. Hoffman
American Association of Advertising Agencies' senior VP and counsel, Adonis E. Hoffman, had some choice words for the Washington crowd.
American Association of Advertising Agencies' senior VP and counsel, Adonis E. Hoffman, had some choice words for the Washington crowd. Credit: Steve Raddock
started things off with an uplifting message: Everyone loves to hate advertising, but especially in Washington.

"America has a love/hate relationship with advertising," he told attendees. "They love their Super Bowl ads, and whatever makes them laugh. But they hate interruptions in their favorite TV shows, they hate ads before movies, they hate spam, junk mail, and even though we're not there yet, they're going to hate ads on cell phones."

He then warned that it is becoming accepted orthodoxy to blame advertising for problems. Fat kids? Must be those sugary cereal ads. High prescription drug costs? Must be all that advertising. Last year, 30 legislative bills were introduced to restrict or alter ads. By making advertising the fall guy, it makes it easy for Washington to fix -- just muzzle the ads.

"But if advertising was that powerful," Hoffman noted, "People would believe there was talking fruit in their underwear." Since MediaWorks published this conference notebook, Mr. Hoffman contacted us to attribute this quote to Dick Sittig, founder of Secret Weapon Marketing, whom he was quoting.

While Hoffman said there are certain categories that should be watched closely, "like gambling, alcohol, adult services, to name just a few that came to me last night," the industry needs to remind lawmakers it can self regulate. He then offered a top 10 list of things a marketer can do "to keep the government out of your business."

Top 10 List of Responsible Advertising:
  1. Focus on CSR, not just ROI. (That's corporate social responsibility, not return on investment.)
  2. Empower consumers. Involve them in your advertising so they feel a sense of ownership of it.
  3. Pay attention to values. American culture is coarsening, so you need to make your values explicit, don't be too nuanced.
  4. Be careful with protected groups, especially kids, the disadvantaged and seniors.
  5. Build strategic alliances, or in other words, keep your friends close but your critics closer.
  6. Pursue public-private partnerships, link to a worthy cause.
  7. Be diverse and inclusive.
  8. Liberalize technology. Technology should not be a barrier to consumption.
  9. Police yourself. Create your own sector-specific models with rules, advisory boards, codes and then make sure you remind Washington of them often.
  10. Do good and you will do well.
9:30 a.m.: Everything Should Be Free
AOL Vice Chairman Ted Leonsis shook up a few audience members with his pronouncement that everything is going to be free -- consumers expect it and you have to give it to them. "We follow Moore's law," he said, "Give them more, more, more for less, less, less."
Ted Leonsis bought new tires because his car -- not an ad -- told him to.
Ted Leonsis bought new tires because his car -- not an ad -- told him to. Credit: Art Beaulieu


His other point that made people sit up was that it used to be that marketing was for people, but now you have to think about algorithms. Here's the story he told to make his point:

"I had an epiphany recently about this. I lease a Mercedes, and I was driving it not too long ago and a little light came on my dashboard and a voice said, 'You need new tires.' So I picked up my cellphone, called the dealership, they said we have a slot, come on over. I drove there. Two hours later I had a set of new tires and I wrote them a big check. Now I have probably seen hundreds of hours of automotive and tire ads in my adult lifetime, especially in sports programming, and it never prompted me to act to buy new tires. But a little computer in my car activates a little light on my dashboard and I can't wait to go write a big check."

10 a.m.: Coffee, coffee coffee

Much-needed coffee break ... Ahhhh, coffee.

10:15 Future of Content

Ad Age's new publisher, Scott Donaton, moderates a panel, 'The Future of Content.'
Ad Age's new publisher, Scott Donaton, moderates a panel, 'The Future of Content.' Credit: Art Beaulieu
Ad Age Publisher (and MediaWorks' ultimate boss) Scott Donaton moderated a panel on "The Future of Content" with Heavy's Simon Assaad, MTV's Brian Graden, NFL's Kim Williams and Branded Pictures' Steven Marrs. Want to know what these folks, heavily involved in the creating of content, thought about Leonsis' free declaration? Assaad and Williams: Disagree. Marrs and a reluctant Graden? Agree. But the whole idea give Williams agita.

11 a.m.

Starcom's Renetta McCann tells attendees how to approach the Cannes Media Competition. ...

And then we all run for the airport.

Ciao til next year in Orlando!
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