Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Opinion: What’s wrong with modern advertising

Guest post by Tom Goodwin

Friday, April 19, 2024

Tom Goodwin. I love advertising, and I love the ad industry, but if I think long and hard, no industry has done a worse job of innovating around new technology than it has. Which is a bit odd considering it’s supposed to be smart, creative and ambitious.

In the last 25 years industries with more boring minds, with less risk tolerance like Retailing, Car making , Banking, Entertainment, Electronics, Airlines, Healthcare and a million other things have all got better, but advertising seems to have got far far worse.

How can this be?

Some explanations:
1) We’ve become obsessed with data.

Data is now our client, not the consumer.
Everything that can be measured should be, and everything that can be impacted fast, should be prioritized over things that matter and take longer.

2) We became obsessed with targeting.

We now seek to make the most precise ads for the smallest number of people, not the biggest feeling ads for the greatest number of people. Laundry detergent makers talk about how the goal is “Personalization at scale”, this makes huge sense for a niche Car makers or a tiny hotel chain, but no sense whatsoever for anyone aiming to reach the mass market, which is most of our clients.

3) We forgot the basics that work.

99% of what we new about advertising in 1940 is true today, what happened to jingles and taglines and consistency? It’s nuts.

4) We ignore our audience.

We lost respect for them, we lost interest in them, we now use aggressive language to hit them, we’re trying to convert them, target them, no longer are we hoping to entertain them or seduce them, we’re now embarrassed by what we have to say and hope to smash into their skulls.

5) Ads move down the funnel to the Point of Purchase.

The entire industry is now so shortermist, so aggressive, so impatient, that only the success we create now, and that we can prove matters. Over time more and more money gets shifted to the place where it’s not likely to create the most success, but where it’s easiest to prove that it has, even if it hasn’t. It’s nuts.

6) We test and learn, and optimize.

We used to dream up big ideas, we used to thrive on stories and bigness and on magic. And now people run a million thoughtless A-B tests and double down on what seems to work.

7) We undervalue human attention.

Digital media became so cheap because it didn’t work well, and the more time we spend online, the more media inventory was created, so the cost of human attention has always been artificially low. Since everything seems so cheap, nobody ever really cared about the quality of advertising made, nobody spent the time to make it worthwhile.

8) We’ve made silos of specialisms not found ways to focus on the bigger picture

I just hope we turn this decline around.

Its the best time ever to rethink what advertising could be.

We’ve the best devices around us we’ve ever known to impact messages with craft, meaning and impact, that allow people to interact immediately and in many different ways.

If you’d like to comment on this topic, please email us at

Published on Friday, April 19, 2024 at 12:30 PM

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