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It’s time to re-brand adland

Advertising is not supposed to be annoying; it’s supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to be perceived as evil, but as the economy’s bloodline.

The advertising industry has the power to build the most impressive brands, raise awareness about the direst social challenges, yet recently it has been failing to maintain its own brand.

What was the brand image of the ad industry at the beginning of the 21st century? Regular people would probably have described it as creative, vibrant and engaging. Consumers were seduced by creative ads; youngsters were flocking to work at ad agencies or brands’ marketing departments and engaging and successful brands were created.

What is the industry’s brand image today, almost 2 decades later? It all fits in 3 words: creativity, intrusiveness and omnipresence. It still is one of the most creative industries, shaping emotional connections between people and brands while making people shed a tear or two while watching TV ads. However, with the proliferation of online advertising and an increasing use of data-driven advertising, consumers and regulators have become wary of the advertising industry as too privacy- and screen-intrusive and omnipresent. Ads (good or bad) are everywhere, in our post box, our inbox, on mobile, tablet and TV screens. Even newly created home gadgets, empowered by artificial intelligence, have started playing advertising.

Times have changed and so have generations. Millennials, centennials and other ‘ennials’ care about living well, but they care a lot about different social issues. Being the first generation to be born and bred in the most developed parts of the world, they have massively embraced issues and problems beyond their immediate existence: climate change, poverty reduction, gender equality and civil liberties. It may not seem so, due to the latest political development across the world, but it will become more evident in the years to come.

So, where do we go from here? How do we get adland to be known once again as creative, responsible and desirable? Responsibility and desirability go hand in hand nowadays.

Do not take greatness for granted: The industry has lived its days of glory. (Hopefully new ones are to come). We cannot continue behaving as if nothing can touch us. And I am not speaking here about financial matters and profit slashing. A new age has brought new challenges and our greatness may well mean nothing if people are worried about their privacy or healthy life-choices. No one is too big to fail.

Come clean: It is ok to admit that we did not get everything right, starting with the exploitation of online advertising without fully understanding the implications. But hey, it’s a journey, and we are just getting started.

Make people feel brands again: Let’s start paying more attention to truly creative ads and build brands again. Building brands is a long term gain. Effectiveness and efficiency are part of great brands, but not their core. Emotional attachment is.

Build responsible brands:  CSR activities such as funding a development of a new park is no longer enough. Think about your brand’s impact on the environment, your employees’ happiness and how diverse your company is.

Respect is the key: Treat every single consumer respectfully, regardless of your target group. Creative can be funny, but disrespectful or too intrusive is not entertaining to anybody.

Help different causes: Why would not we as the industry stand behind the UN Millennial goals and help government achieve them by doing what we do best: promote and get people to care about them? Some of the goals can be the industry’s as well: for example, empowerment of women and environmental sustainability.

Be wholeheartedly in: Advertising is not supposed to be annoying; it’s supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to be perceived as evil, but as the economy’s bloodline. Only a truly progressive industry will project the same image to the outside world.

It is not only about changing ad formats, but about changing the essence of the industry.

Let’s consider another handy slogan for the end: Be bold. Be tempting. Be adland again.

We as EACA are prepared to play our part…

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