Advertising: still in the business of advertising

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‘We’re not in the advertising business anymore’ – said Sir Martin Sorrell in the context of advertising business needing new skills today. I guess Sir Sorrell was referring to the big role tech & data play in today’s advertising business. While there is no denying that the business has dramatically changed over the last decade, and new skill-sets are essential, I believe it is fundamentally the same since the days of Thomas J. Barratt, “the father of modern advertising”.

Advertising was, is and will always be a business of persuasion. The task is to persuade the consumer into changing her behaviour or mindset. In that context, persuasion is an art – not pure art because it has a commercial angle. If it is an art, then technology or science can only play supporting roles. The changed nature of advertising has been a discussion topic since the advent of digital technology in the business. I don’t think proliferation of radio or television in advertising were discussed in the context of ‘this is not advertising’ perhaps because they were not hitherto unfamiliar media? Silent movies (1894 to 1929) and talkies (first commercial screening of short motion pictures using the sound-on-film technology was in 1923) were around before commercial advertising used those techniques. So writing for TV in the form of advertising scripts or producing a TV commercial wasn’t very different from art & techniques which were around for decades.

Web advertising changed everything. While number crunching for media planning was around since the days of television, web advertising took data management to another level. Coding for web ads, mobile apps and other digital products – (at least being aware of what’s possible) made it all a mystery for a majority in the industry. It then turned into traditional advertising and digital advertising as two distinct camps. But however much programmatic advertising, data-driven advertising or native advertising may be in vogue it is still good old advertising – just delivered in a manner to suit the audience.

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