He cited research by the Ad Association’s think tank Credos, which found that a third of people feel a need to apologise for working in marketing, advertising and communications. Furthermore, just 40% of marketing leaders believe that the public has a positive view of the industry. That drops to 20% across the industry as a whole.
Speaking to Marketing Week, Lefroy explained that there are two aspects as to why this is the case. First is what he dubbed the “vertical dimension” – the products and services that are advertised from payday loans and gambling to foods high in fat, sugar and salt.
Second is the “horizontal dimension”- the behaviour of some within the marketing industry. That centres on issues such as unwanted phone calls, chuggers in the streets, direct mail, which he said many is see as junk mail, and advertisers’ behaviour online.
Yet LeFroy believes there has actually never been a better time to work in marketing and that advertising offers many benefits that the industry is not doing enough to shout about. That includes helping to get governments elected, promoting diversity and inclusivity and encouraging behaviour change, for example with Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign.
“The paradox is advertising has never been more exciting and never have we served consumers better. Never has it been more efficient in actually delivering what society wants and needs.”
Tim Lefroy, CEO, Advertising Association
“We would not have the privilege of Google without advertising. Media, entertainment, none of this stuff would happen without advertising. We have a great story yet there is something holding us back,” he explained.
The big challenge, LeFroy said, is to get the conversation started. He called on marketing’s “young leaders” to offer insight into the issues that need to be deal with and some of their time to help the Ad Association improve the conversation.
“My invitation is to ask you on a voluntary basis to help us have this conversation. We need ot talk about the value of what we do to society, not just the economy and business but to people. And we need to talk about the values through which we do it. We need to engage the leadership generation, the young leaders that must take responsibility for these activities and help us shape the way we do it,” he said.
The risk of doing nothing is that marketing risks losing the next generation of talent to other industries that can better demonstate how they are doing societal good.
“The great concern is that a sector like ours will not be able to attract, retain, develop and make feel proud outstanding young people. Research points to the fact our message is not getting through. It is harder to keep Generation Y in our type of industry,” he said.