Advertising ‘isn’t a guilty pleasure’

joe-talcottPeople working in the advertising industry need to stop seeing it as a guilty pleasure, the chairman of the Australian Association of National Advertisers said in a speech last night.

In an address given after the Advertising Federation of Australia’s AGM, Joe Talcott told the audience:  

“Advertising is well and truly in the spotlight. The public have a love-hate relationship with this business. They love Mad Men, they love The Gruen Transfer in the way they loved Bewitched. Then they will go out and buy a PVR so they can skip the commercials.

“Lots of us are in the spotlight, like it or not. But we accept too many of the criticisms. Someone said to me working in advertising is a guilty pleasure and that’s got to change because it’s not true.”

He said that where the advertising industry is being blamed for social problems, it could take a role in helping address them. He said:

“Life is complicated and soundbites don’t solve problems. Just running an ad does not fix these things; removing an ad does not solve these things either.”

He added: “But I reckon we should be in the middle of this. We have a lot of assets we could put to solving these problems. We have rooms full of people who can look at solving this in a different way and we need that.”

Addressing the downturn, Talcott – who is also group marketing director at News Ltd – returned to a theme he touched on last week, with the economic situation being a driver for long-needed structural change within companies.

He said: “We cannot waste this crisis – it provides us with a big opportunity. It gives us the opportunity to make big changes to prepare ourselves for economic recovery. Inertia is extremely powerful. It is that force that keeps an object moving in the same direction unless something redirects it. The GFC is a bloody big outside force.”

He added: “Agencies are one of the best equipped to change. Advertising can learn from the agency business how to be nimble, how to quick, how to adapt to change.

And addressing the changing face of the media, he said: “I’ve learned that content is king, but you know what? A lot of content is crap.

“The world has changed but there’s no more talent in the world – it’s just easier to find.

 “We used to be in this really cool club that was producing content. If you’ve got a PC you are now in the club that once took millions of dollars to get into.”

And he added:  ” Audiences are going to be looking for what they have looked for, for a long time – they will look for good content.”

Alluding to Marshall McLuhan’s saying “the medium is the message”, Talcott argued that whenever a new technology came to the fore, it dominated the conversation, but is eventually taken for granted once everyone is back on a level playing field. He said: “When it goes to the background, the message is the message. The message makers have a future.”

And he told ad agencies: ‘We need you because ideas are still the currency of successful brands. We need partners that understand the power of ideas. That’s why the relationship is so important.

“We need to come together. We need to stand tall and stand on the front foot. Our industry is fuel for economic recovery. We are an engine of economic growth.”

And he said that a proposal which the AANA supported of attempting to create economic stimulus though government support of advertising by small and medium sized businesses had been misunderstood. Pointing out that in the main, the type of advertisers that would benefit would not be AANA members, he said: “People think we are looking for some bailout package which is not the case.”

He that once small businesses advertising again, this would trickle through to the wider economy as it would stimulate demand. He said: “It like putting jumper pads on the economy.”

He said: “The other reason I like it is because it says advertising is important. What are the chance? I don’t know. Pretty small.”


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