Philip Kotler causes uproar at Marketing Forum with ‘TV ads a waste of money’ claim

Most television advertising is a waste of money and marketing has become little more than promotion, according to Philip Kotler, one of the world’s foremost marketing academics.

Kotler’s comments, which drew criticism from the audience, were made at the opening address of the Marketing Forum 2003. He told delegates: “I don’t think TV advertising works. Much of it is so average that it is a waste of money.”

But Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) director-general Hamish Pringle says: “Kotler is wrong, and seems to be heavily influenced by what he has seen in the US, where there is too much and too much poor-quality advertising. It is not the same in the UK.”

Kotler also told delegates that something had gone seriously wrong with marketing. He said many marketing professionals are clueless about how effective their strategies are and confined themselves to promotional activity, or what Kotler termed “one p” marketing.

He said for marketing to become more effective and for the status of marketers to rise in the companies where they work, marketing needs to become more rigorous, accountable and creative. Rather than high-cost advertising campaigns, Kotler suggested that more innovative PR-led strategies might be more effective.

Kotler also suggested that many Western companies face “brand death” as China begins to build its own brands at lower prices.

Kotler is author of Principles of Marketing and is professor of international marketing at Northwestern University, Illinois.

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