Is advertising the Orlando Bloom of the corporate world?

“Advertising is not as effective as it used to be.”

Mark Ritson, professor at Melbourne Business school and Marketing Week columnist closed this year’s Global Marketing Week by calling out the advertising industry on where it needs to do better. In the process, he redefined its themes of sustainability, diversity and marketing as a solution.

Ritson used Day in the Life –articles of actors Tom Hollander and Orlando Bloom to illustrate his thesis of where advertising has gone astray. Advertising used to be like Hollander: a likeable middle-aged grump whose life is as miserable as everybody else’s. However, it has now become like Orlando Bloom: a woke and worthy adonis, no doubt, but quite divorced from ordinary reality. To avoid coming across as out-of-touch hipsters, the following redefinitions might prove to be useful.

  •  Sustainability these days means climate change, but Ritson changed the focus to the short termism crippling the advertising industry. Companies overinvest in performance marketing while ignoring the longer term work on brand building.

 

  • “Diversity is important, and marketing is terrible at it,” Ritson said, referring to diversity in the workforce. However, another kind of diversity is also missing in advertising these days: that of communication channels. It is a well-known adage that more channels equals more effectiveness, something Ritson has discovered in his own research on Effie campaigns from the last 50 years. “We keep talking about digital versus traditional, television versus Youtube… We should want both!”

 

  • Finally, the idea of purpose. “Purpose is a form of positioning”, said Ritson, but too often it does not pass the test of the three C’s. Take the pandemic. “We had a lineup of identikit campaigns of plinking pianos and people looking out of windows,” said Ritson, which is not the same as keeping customers satisfied. “Yes, let’s talk about purpose, but let’s also talk about the state of marketing!”

To become more like Tom and less like Orlando, marketers’ should put strategy and creative on the same level as media, invest int the long term as well as the short term, and rediscover what should be their most important purpose: their customers.

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