The End Of Advertising (Easy There)

Posted by

Say this with me… all together now: “advertising is here to stay.”

You may not like to say that. It’s a fact. Advertising is not going anywhere. Advertising is not dying. Advertising is not being replaced by anything (sorry, content marketers). Advertising is changing. Why this rant? Why this rant again? Why this rant again now? Recently, there has been a lot of editorializing that the content marketing industry is booming, and that – eventually – it will lead to the hollowing out of advertising. Content marketing will replace advertising? This is not happening. There is no data to back this up. There is no movement (not according to CMOs and not according to the media companies) that this is happening. It is true that advertising is changing, being disrupted (by itself, by technology, by new channels to sell a message, etc…), but there is no lone gunmen that is delivering any form of assassination to the advertising business. It’s not content marketing and it’s not the ad blockers, either.

I hate advertising. Advertising sucks. Advertising is boring. 

I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. People don’t hate advertising. People hate bad advertising. Unfortunately, there is plenty of bad advertising. When you bolt that on to a model that is interruption-based by execution and driven by repetition, it’s easy to see what gets consumers down. While content marketing is a burgeoning and exciting way for brands to connect with consumers, it’s not killing or replacing advertising. They are two (very) separate ways that messages are delivered to consumers. 

Push. Pull. Inform. 

Many believe deeply in content marketing because (for the most part), even if it is being pushed into a consumer’s face, there is more value and merit to it. The other benefit of content is that the vast majority of its consumption is being pulled by consumers (less friction, more demand-based and a sense of depth to it). The best content informs, adds value and can be considered a utility to a consumer’s life. This is true as well. From the push, pull and inform perspective, content is tough to beat as a great engine of marketing (I live it. I love it), but it still doesn’t serve the same purpose as advertising, and it has a long way to go until any brand might consider it an equal or replacement to advertising, as we know it today. 

Why so bullish advertising?

While the many articles on content marketing killing advertising are being shared and posted on Facebook, LinkedIn and Medium, the Wall Street Journal published an article yesterday titled, Ad-Spending Growth to Slow Significantly in 2017. Aha! Gotcha! See! Spending on advertising is slowing significantly! There’s your proof right there! Not quite. According to this article, “The global ad business will see a slowdown to 3.6% spending growth next year, down from the 5.7% growth clip projected for 2016, when spending is expected to total $493 billion, Magna said. The 2017 forecast is an improvement over a June estimate that 2017 spending would grow 3.1%”

Stop right there. 

Even if it is slowing, advertising spend is close to $500 billion. And, while it is slowing, it is growing. Correction: it continues to grow. The growth slowing down is not related to the growth of content marketing, it has to do with things like an Olympic and Presidential Election-less environment. It has to do with the uncertainty of global political issues like Brexit and a new US President. Nowhere – in any of the research – does anyone say that content marketing is killing advertising. It’s nice to think that this is happening because you have an ad blocker, you ignore messages, etc… but this is something I call a “market of one.” The experience of you, your family and friends is not a market. Case in point, the past US Presidential Election, fake news and the effects of the filter bubble. What you see around you, is not the true reality of a market. 

Advertising is doing fine, thank you very much for asking. 

Yes, digital spend will outweigh traditional television. Yes, social and search is getting more dollars (which, interestingly, are not experiencing the slowing down of the industry, but are – in fact – in growth mode). You can make the argument that traditional advertising is feeling pressure. You can make the argument that media is shifting channels. You can make the argument that newer channels (think mobile) are still nascent, and will continue to chomp away at the traditional channels. You cannot make the argument that content marketing will replace advertising. 

The master that advertising serves. 

To keep things simple, I define advertising as such: a paid format to put information in front of consumers. That’s it. If you paid to get your message across, it’s advertising. Yes, you can assault me in the comments below for this simplistic definition, but I do believe that the main delineation between advertising and other forms of communication is that a brand pays to access an audience. What’s most humorous about the many claims that content marketing is killing advertising, is that for the vast majority of brands, in order to get any traction for their content, they are using different forms of paid advertising and sponsorship to get consumers to pay attention to it (can you smell the irony?). Obviously, this new line of marketing only adds more dollars to adverting’s coffers. Brands and media pundits may not like to face the facts, but they are evident. Advertising is a beast, and a huge part of the global GDP. It helps every sector of business and government to grow. And, as much as we’ve tried, there has not been anything that has come along and changed that. That isn’t to say that it won’t happen, but it hasn’t happened yet. So, even though it may be flat or declining, it’s not in a bad state, and it’s not because of content marketing. The numbers, the market size and the attention is there and growing (even if it has years of slowing down). 

The true action item is this: make advertising better. It’s not simple feat, but it can help to change the hearts and minds of consumers and even marketers.