Why advertising is a redundant word


I’m frustrated. Credos has already begun the important work it was created to carry out. The independently governed think-tank, funded by you the industry, has one simple mission – to promote the wider “understanding of advertising”.

Credos is the brainchild of Tim Lefroy, chief executive of the Advertising Association, while Karen Fraser is director and principal mover and shaker within this body. As industry champions go, these two are perfectly placed and sufficiently experienced to help rebuild trust and confidence in the work that marketers do.

In spring 2011 Credos will publish a report examining the economic, social and cultural contributions that advertising makes to the UK. This report should be one that we can hold up to Government as it seeks to shape the future of its own marketing model as well as the nature of regulation on communications and a range of other issues.

But until Credos changes its terms of reference, I fear it will fall short of that. It must stop talking about advertising and start talking about marketing. I’m not navel gazing, this is too important to get wrong.

Both the Advertising Association and Credos represent the interests of a whole range of marketing communications disciplines outside of straight advertising, which itself is just one part of what you do for a living.

The “advertising industry” that is mentioned in Credos’ latest research doesn’t actually exist. What exists are marketing professionals who work for their respective businesses and are responsible for advertising, along with a host of other things. I suppose you could use the term “advertising industry” to describe marketing services agencies but what agency do you know that would still claim to only be able to “do” advertising? Besides, that isn’t who Credos’ latest piece of research is referring to – it’s talking about marketers.

My biggest concern, however, with the use of the word “advertising” is that it doesn’t encompass the full value marketers can create for their businesses and the economy, and it won’t win us the necessary PR battle. Not with the consumer, not with the Government, the media or the City. Credos’ report says 55% of consumers feel “neutral” towards advertising while just 20% say they have trust in the “advertising industry”.

I wonder what the response would be if the poll made clear that it was referring to marketing tactics perceived to be of more value; the loyalty schemes that create savings, the smartphone application that offers information and relevant promotions with ease, the field marketing stunt that spontaneously delights passers-by, the ecommerce website with social media capability that personalises a relationship or the branded content that grows brand love, awareness and engagement. We need to communicate and explain what we do to prove our value. Who could blame politicians and consumers for thinking we only do advertising if that’s all we talk about?