The Future of Advertising ... Is Still Advertising

Dress It Up, Call It What You Want, but the Job Remains the Same

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Derek Walker
Derek Walker
Agency: We're reinventing advertising!

Client: Really? Why?

Agency: Because the old ways don't work. They're broken.

Client: But we built our brand with advertising.

Agency: Yeah, but you can do much more now.

Client: Tell me more . . .

Agency: Consumers are smarter, more sophisticated, they hate being sold to.

Client: And consumers in the past liked being sold to?

Agency: Not really, but this is different.

Client: How so?

Agency: We're not going to sell the product. Instead we're going to talk about what the product can do for them!

Client: Interesting. And advertising didn't do this in the past?

Agency: It did, but we're doing this better!

Client: You don't say. What's going to be different?

Agency: We're going to be less intrusive, less in their face -- we're giving the consumer the power.

Client: Uh, uh-huh. What does that mean?

Agency: That means we'll let the consumer control the message and how they interact with the brand.

Client: OK, but how do we move product?

Agency: That's the beauty of it, you don't. It isn't about selling; it is about building a relationship with the customer.

Client: Wait a minute, wasn't that what we were paying you to do before?

Agency: Uh, yeah. But now we're going to do it better!

Client: We hope so. I still don't see that big of a difference!

Agency: We'll be able to provide real metrics as to how people are interacting with the brand.

Client: You gave us metrics before. Are you saying they weren't real?

Agency: No, they were real, but these are even more accurate. We can tell you what people are reading about your product, what they are saying, where they are saying it and how they feel about your company and product. We can track them wherever they go on the web.

Client: "Track them?" Isn't that more intrusive than before?

Agency: Not really, with the new apps, smart phones and all, people are OK with being tracked.

Client: And how is this giving them more control if we're watching and tracking them?

Agency: We watch but we don't control the conversation, the consumers do!

Client: What if they start saying bad things about us? What then?

Agency: You let them. We'll already be part of the conversation but in many cases if we have built up a loyal following, they will speak up for us.

Client: And if they don't?

Agency: Then we speak up.

Client: Okay, but how is this not advertising?

Agency: It is better than advertising!

Client: Interesting, does this mean that we will now be paying you based on results?

Agency: Uh, no.


Look, we all get it. There's so much parity in the services that we offer that it is difficult sometimes for us establish ourselves as special or different. So, we stop calling ourselves "advertising agencies." We proclaim advertising is dead or we announce that we are "reinventing" or "redefining" advertising, but are we?

I'm not sure.

One of the definitions of advertising is: "The action of calling something to the attention of the public, especially by paid announcement."

How is this definition changing? It isn't. The delivery systems for advertising are changing. They always are.

Advertising is an industry that's always in flux, always looking for new and more effective ways to speak with consumers.

It happened with radio, it happened with TV, it happened when technology allowed us to do better research, and it is happening now with digital. It is the nature of our business.

Are we doing something all that different? Because from everything I hear or read or experience, we are still doing advertising. Even in the social-media realm, clients are still paying agencies to promote their product, service or brand

If you claim that you are changing or reinventing or redefining advertising then be prepared to tell people how. Otherwise, it sounds like a lot of smoke and mirrors. Clients aren't slow. Sooner or later you're going have to do more than talk about doing things differently, you're going to have to do it.

You want to differentiate yourself from other agencies and advertising professionals, do better work -- produce better results! Offer clients creative solutions that meet their needs.

It's really that simple -- and that hard.

If we as an industry spent as much energy and time trying to deliver better work to our clients as we do talking about how we're reinventing, changing or redefining advertising we wouldn't have to say a word. The work would speak for itself.

Advertising by its definition cannot be revolutionized, redefined or reinvented. It will always be advertising.

Now, how we do advertising is a different matter.

Derek Walker is the janitor, secretary and mailroom person for his tiny agency, brown and browner advertising based in Columbia, S.C.
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