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Should we be in the “Advertising” industry?

On October 12th, AdAge posted the article by Jack Neff titled: Why It’s Time to Do Away With the Brand Manager – P&G, Unilever Among Those Embracing New Roles in Social Media Age

Have any of you ever struggled with the term ‘advertising?’ I’ve been struggling with it since my early career at Ogilvy & Mather when I was first introduced to the concept of agency discipline integration. The most highly regarded publication in our industry is Advertising Age (AdAge). We also have the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), Advertising Week (AdWeek), and the 4As, the Association of American Advertising Agencies. Yet none of the companies who belong to the ANA or the 4As and few of the executives reading AdAge or AdWeek limit their forms of communication to advertising. In fact, saying that you are in advertising in the traditional sense has become something of a career-limiting statement. Advertising as a term, in its best sense, is used as synonymous for all the various disciplines of “persuasion” in Marketing, with the possible exception of direct selling.

Persuasion might be a more appropriate “P-word” than promotion in the 4Ps of Marketing—product, price, placement and promotion—yet persuasion connotes a more active approach to marketing than many of the critical tasks we engage in, including brand advertising, web-site development, branded content and even customer support, events, and conferences. In all of them we are advocating.

Let us suggest that despite all the arguments we have in the halls of our corporations or agencies about what type of tactical discipline works best, we are all in exactly the same business. If we are communicating with intent to persuade, then we are advocates in the field of Advocacy. Marketers are brand advocates. Advertising is one form of paid advocacy. There are others. What we are proposing is revolutionary.  It requires new language, or at the very least, the repurposing of better terms to describe what we do in this new hyper-communications age. We are all of us in the business of creating compelling messages that advocate successfully in the hearts and minds of our target audience for and in behalf of products, services, issues, ideals, ideologies, policies and individuals whom we find worthy of our best thinking and efforts.

Physics is struggling to find the holy grail — a T.O.E., a.k.a. theory of everything, or unified field theory. It is because they need to bring together the seemingly incompatible mathematics relativity and quantum mechanics. Our task as an industry is much easier than theirs. Think for just a moment about the fundamentals of our business. Wouldn’t you agree that there is no “line” above which or below which we work as communicators. There is only the goal—to persuade—and the work we do to achieve that goal, to advocate.

Advocacy – the most accurate word to describe what we do.

For those of us in the United States of America, adoption of the term “advocacy” to describe our business simplifies things. We need not change the name of AdAge, or the monikers by which our industry associations identify themselves. We simply evolve our language to keep pace with our times.  The 4As become the Association of American Advocacy Agencies, making public what we already know to be true, that they do web sites as well. (Gasp.) And public relations, demand generating FSIs, banners, direct mail, and email blasts as well.

Yes, advocacy has specific meaning in some countries. It is identified with Law. If we admit it, however, such association might do us credit. Corporate attorneys have more clout in the board room than marketers. If you agree that advertising might not be the most accurate term to describe the full depth and breadth of what we do as an industry then you’ll have to agree that no word in the English language more accurately represents us than advocacy.

Once that slight change in how you perceive our business takes place in your mind, you realize two things. First, that determining what you want people to believe, feel, and do and discovering the most compelling and effective way of persuading them is as important to your company as the other holy grail in our business, the creative.  Reasons, claims, and perceptions constitute what we want to “say.” Our creative teams determine how much attention people pay to these messages. Social media, television ads, public relations, web sites – these are simply the means by which we communicate all of the messages necessary to be successful marketers. Forrester, whom the AdAge article is referencing, is making a compelling point about the titles and responsibilities of those who are currently “brand managers.” What about taking it a step further? Most non-marketers in corporations struggle to clearly understand our discipline as it is. Let’s make it easier for them. We are all, not just brand managers, but advocates.


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