Advertising gets no respect

Anyone who still sees marketing as just an expense is not following the plot, says publisher Mary Maddever.
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This story appears in the June 2015 issue of strategy.

The buzz around the finale of Mad Men was kind of ironic. The level of water cooler speculation was itself a throwback to simpler media times. The reality, of course, is quite different. Both the media and ad industry have much more complexity to deal with, which makes developing marketing strategy and building brands today more fascinating than any fictional story arc.

Due to our tendency to dis or dismiss commercial “interruptions,” in tandem with dwindling mass platforms, the ad industry is following audiences online. Marketers spend more each year to connect more personally via digital, social and mobile – often with rich content programs, powered by complex algorithms.

In fact, advertising and marketing have always used data to inform insights. But the analytics side of the biz is now on steroids – the new digital marcom programs are serving up data that enables Canadian brands to cost-effectively build equity and scale.

Advertising is also culture. Ads can inform, make you smile or think differently, like when Dove made you less self-conscious with its “Real Beauty” campaign, celebrating everyday people. Even the bad ads serve a purpose beyond bathroom breaks – mass advertising supports Canadian content.

Yet what other professional service sector that builds business value, is a leader in innovation, big data exploitation and new tech adoption, supports culture, and sometimes surprises and delights you, has earned such a dubious rap?

Bottom line – anyone who still sees marketing and advertising as an expense, rather than the key to survival, is not following the plot. But that’s what we hear. That the C-suite can be as dismissive of the value of their ad agencies as the folks who count down the seconds before they gleefully hit the “Skip Ad” button online.

In Canada, advertising is a hotbed of digital, design, media, tech and content innovation – and should get more respect for its contribution to the economy and culture. Some of the best case studies out of Canada are picked up globally, so why not pay more attention to the thought leadership here at home?

To start, check out the AToMiC winners featured in this issue. The awards were created to identify the programs that engage audiences differently, whether by deploying tech in new ways or creating new models to share content. The winning case studies are a good litmus of the new reach-and-persuade direction of consumer interaction. So read on, and rethink what advertising even entails now.

And appreciate that Canada’s marketing strategies, morphing media landscape and the campaigns and programs that result are the most fascinating aspect of business right now.

Cheers, mm

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