An Argument for Advertising Advertising

Especially in Emerging Markets

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Roger Pe Roger Pe

Prior to the financial crisis that hit most of Asian tiger economies in 1997, the Indonesian 4A's launched an industry-wide competition to convince marketers why they should invest more in advertising and assert its role in business.

McCann Indonesia won the top prize with an all-copy ad with a provocative headline: "Advertising Is a Waste of Time and Money." Of course, its bold statement attracted everyone's attention and people were intrigued to read why. The ad explained: Advertising is a waste of time and money if people do not want economic growth, benefit from job opportunities that it provides, or allow businesses to grow.

In 2003, the Philippines' United Print Media Group, an umbrella group to which most of the Philippines's newspaper and magazine publications belong, adopted an initiative by a multinational ad agency that emphasized the advantages of advertising in print publications. It was the country's first serious crack at advertising advertising.

The same group that created the campaign is asking: What if ad agencies start advertising advertising in their respective markets? It isn't a waste of time. Advertising is a barometer of a country's growth. The more progressive and sophisticated it becomes, the more you can gauge where the economy is heading.

Yet for all the revenue and immense benefits that it brings, advertising the industry seems to be largely ignored, considering that advertising's brand is the lifeblood of any ad agency of whatever form, size or focus.

Advertising advertising seems to be not on the priority list of the very makers of advertising. Who'll give something back, re-energize or bring the excitement back to the industry that is always on the receiving end of every economic crunch?

The stakes are high. Think about a world without advertising. You are surfing the net and Facebook, YouTube and other cool sites are gone. All you get are endless streams of bloggers' angsts. That TV show you are watching or station you are tuned in will soon give way to the "color bar" and eventually zap off the air. The newspaper you are holding would soon become a piece of empty newsprint and its publisher run out of ink. Those billboard frames would become old and rusty and home for nesting birds.

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