Earning a place at the table

An interesting article in Ad Age from Jeff Goodby (courtesy of Martin & Michael at, appropriately, The Table).  It responds to Bob Garfield’s book ‘The Chaos Scenario’. I haven’t had the opportunity to read the book, but the Ad Age article seems to summarise its hypothesis pretty well – the advertising industry is dying, made irrelevant in a world of endlessly fragmenting media, unable to evolve as consumers, empowered by DVRs and liberated by the internet, control how (or indeed if) they engage with ‘advertising’.

Which actually sounds like a great world to me.

If there’s one thing that can fundamentally change our industry’s fortunes (and in the process significantly improve the quality of what we do) it’s the acceptance that we have to earn our place at the public’s table. The sooner we accept that we can’t buy an audience, but instead have to earn an audience the better.

The great challenge for the industry can be captured in one commonly asked question.

Right now, when we present a solution to a client the question is asked, ‘is this idea worth spending my company’s money on?’  We’ll know we have a future as an industry when the question becomes ‘is this idea worth someone spending time with?’

The new world that Bob Garfield describes is forcing this change. It requires us to stop thinking about what advertisers want to say, and instead think only of what consumers want to hear. Because only what delivers value to consumers should have currency.  What’s interesting, useful, inspiring and entertaining will completely override what’s simply there. ‘Exposure’ will be revealed for the meaningless, valueless concept it is.

Which makes this about the most exciting time to be involved in the industry.  Because we’ve always maintained that we want to be judged based on delivering something that people value. And hopefully, if Bob Garfield’s right, that time is now.

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Earning a place at the table

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