6 Sep 2010

Is good advertising relevant anymore?

Good Advertising, beyond getting an audience to physically buy a brand, also builds an intangible asset called 'Brand Equity'. This isn't accomplished in one fell swoop. (No, not even with a Cannes Gold creative.) It takes time - like it invariably does when trying to get someone to trust what you say (i.e. your advertisements). It takes months, and sometimes years of being consistent and believable.

In effect, good Advertising also helps build 'goodwill' among customers and employees. And for their part, people leading the brand - and I say people, because a 'brand' is just as intangible a thing as 'goodwill' - should aim to sustain the brand's equity in the way they deal with customers and employees.

Sadly, what actually happens is quite different. From Advertising to Customer Service to Employee Satisfaction - individual perceptions are funnelled into focus groups, surveys, statistics and pseudo-science. The result is a soulless set of numbers that can be interpreted anyway one wants!

If the Advertising industry is struggling to find its feet in recent years, it may have something to do with the increasingly cold, impersonal and insensitive - almost borg-like - character that is creeping into the corporate world of today.

They may be staffed by the nicest, warmest people - but the corporate environment often negates it. And the larger the corporate entity, the stronger the drive to 'standardise' itself through cold clinical 'processes'.

The seemingly benign jargon-ridden corporate-speak is having a unfortunate consequence. Some CEOs are turning to hard statistics to boost short-term profits. One of the simplest physical and psychological tools, is laying-off employees. And saddest aspect is that those resorting to shortcuts are not just being rewarded for it, they are being rewarded handsomely.

According to a report on CEOs' pay by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, the 50 highest-paid CEOs are also the ones that have laid off the largest number of workers since the onset of the current economic crisis. They took home on average 42 percent more pay in 2009 than their peers at S&P 500 firms.

This is nothing short of incentivising the erosion of a brand's equity... And contrary to the very raison d'etre of good Advertising.

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