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Riffs on marketing and writing ––

Advertising Is Dead

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The 1950’s was the golden age of advertising for two reasons –– (1) the economy was booming post World War II and (2) television had seeped into every nook and cranny of American culture. 

For the first time in history, large corporations could hard-sell millions of customers simultaneously, all from a little box sitting in their living room. 

The math was simple; as long as a corporation had a large advertising budget and a product to sell, they could make an ungodly amount of money –– brands like Kellogg’s were literally making fortunes selling boxes of sugar puffs called Sugar Smackers.

Couple fat ad budgets and massive audiences with some of the greatest advertising minds to ever step foot on planet Earth (Ogilvy, Bernbach, Burnett, etc) and suddenly you have the golden age of advertising. 

But, fast forward six decades to 2017 and everything changed.

Advertising Is Dead

Today, seven and eight-digit advertising budgets have steadily decreased as business owners have come to believe that advertising is dead. The once massive audiences have been broken down across thousands of mediums. And finally, the advertising masterminds have been replaced with “social media marketers” who have never opened a single marketing book in their life. 

While I would argue the first two points can most definitely contribute to business owners flailing belief in advertising, I would say the third and final point has been the straw that broke advertising’s back. 

The one thing that advertisers did extremely well was finding value and highlighting said value to the consumer. There were months of strategy, consumer research and design that went into each campaign. Whereas today, marketers take the approach of throwing shit at the wall and seeing what sticks. 

Why? Lack of time, dwindling patience, naivety and continuously placing the brand before the customer.

Advertising takes time. You can post hundreds of pictures to Instagram in the time it would take to put together a strong ad campaign. It takes seconds to fire off a tweet, whereas hours to write a compelling piece of copy. 

Advertising takes patience. In an age where everyone is used to getting what they want exactly when they want it... it's difficult to sell brands on the concept that while quick guerrilla marketing tactics provide instant gratification they don't make your brand a titan for the long haul. Brands that invest in advertising are around for decades, whereas brands that are driven by instant gratification are like flares -- they shine bright for a brief moment but eventually die out. 

Advertising takes experience. Today, there are a lot of internet entrepreneurs that believe if you build it they will come. A thought that isn't only naive but pretentious. People buy because something is valuable to them, not because your brand has a pretty Instagram page (though a pretty Instagram page helps). Brands should be asking themselves, "Why should people spend their hard earned money on my product?" And, then build an advertising campaign around this "why". 

Advertising keeps the customer top of mind. Today, entrepreneurs are as famous as rock stars. They are worshipped by American culture. It's a movement that has certainly done wonders in fueling entrepreneurship, but one that has been detrimental for brands, causing them to value themselves over their customers. Brands don't have customers anymore, they have "followers" and that's bullshit. 

By Cole Schafer


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Cole Schafer