Raising profile of ad industry

Twenty seven leading European publishing groups are donating space in their publications to convince readers that advertising is not manipulative but beneficial. By John Shannon.

The advertising industry is often accused of failing to do for itself what it does so effectively for its clients.

As the messenger, it would be inappropriate to overshadow the message, but there are times when it is beneficial to raise the profile of the industry, such as when faced with legislation which may threaten legitimate commercial freedoms.

This is the rationale behind a new campaign developed by the European Publishers Council (EPC), a group of 27 leading European publishing groups.

EPC members are donating space within their publications to draw readers’ attention to the fact that, although advertising is a powerful communications tool, it does not force people to do or buy things they do not want.

The message implicitly supports the importance of advertising to the publishing sector, while sending a message to EU decision-makers.

Explicit support of advertising, through advertising, is one way to strengthen acceptance of the ad industry. Another is to integrate coverage of the subject into mainstream media, to use it as a way to examine society through commercial expression. Though newspapers and magazines afford the industry some coverage, it is perhaps TV which offers the most potential, a fact most notably proven by Culture Pub, a weekly programme airing on French TV station M6.

In the UK, programmes that deal with advertising often resemble little more than sensationalist peepholes. Culture Pub, on the other hand, now in its 14th year, takes an approach that is both informative and entertaining. Recent viewing figures of 2.5 million people – one-quarter of the available audience – testify to its success.

Writing in a recent issue of the ad trade magazine CB News – which is involved in the production of Culture Pub – editor Christian Blachas puts this success down to three factors.

First, he says, viewers like to have decoded for them the “manipulation” to which they are subjected through advertising, to be given behind-the-scenes access to the commercial process.

Second, given the growing proliferation of commercial messages, viewers will increasingly need to find some strategy to deal with the flood of information and that the best way to do this is to understand the mechanisms behind it.

Third, Blachas concludes, people simply enjoy to watch good advertising.

We live in a knowledge society, where commercial exchange is a combination of both transaction and learning opportunity. Introducing the EPC campaign, council chairman Francisco Balsemao said that: “at the heart of this interactive campaign is the EPC’s opinion that modern consumers are educated enough to tell the difference between reality and advertised reality.” Initiatives such as those of the EPC and Culture Pub will help ensure that this remains the case.

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