OPINION: LUND ON ... ADVERTISING’S RETURN TO THE TOP TABLE

By MARK LUND, chief executive of Delaney L, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 10 December 1999 12:00AM

You may not have noticed yet, but with a coy smile and discreet ripple of muscle, advertising has slid suavely back into its seat at businesses’ ’top table’. The reason is a new generation of clients who know that advertising not only can make them famous, but it can also make them rich.

You may not have noticed yet, but with a coy smile and discreet

ripple of muscle, advertising has slid suavely back into its seat at

businesses’ ’top table’. The reason is a new generation of clients who

know that advertising not only can make them famous, but it can also

make them rich.



It’s about time. During the 80s and 90s an agency managing director’s

lament of ’the client’s chief executive officer doesn’t understand me’

came to rival the traditional version involving his wife. The core

agency client during this time was still the traditional FMCG marketer.

As markets in most packaged goods slowed, retailers exerted pressure on

margins and viability, and more and more clients came to see advertising

as secondary to maintaining shelf space and profit.



After all, in a mature market advertising is a tough way of improving

profit. Market shares are established and harder to shift. Of course,

there were exceptions but as the trend took hold consultants took the

adman’s place at the CEO’s side - and profited from it mightily.



So what’s changed? Technology.



The digital revolution has ushered in three things which are combining

to lift advertising from its knees. First, a group of new technologies

have spawned markets that grow like topsy. Second, a group of new

technology companies and brands have sprung up and need to establish

their names.



And third, a roaring bull market falling over itself to invest money in

technology companies whose brands they recognise.



This combination has produced some extraordinary phenomena such as the

computer chip company, Intel, which went from an adspend of dollars 4

million to dollars 150 million overnight and, after three years, was

voted the third most recognised brand in the world behind Marlboro and

Coca-Cola. Orange is another example: it went from a share price of

pounds 2 to pounds 14 in three years, during which time the company

never became more than number three in terms of mobile phone sales, but

was always effortlessly number one in brand sexiness.



These companies and many others like them know that the right

advertising drives employee morale as well as analyst admiration. In a

corporate world where managers value share options way above salary,

both factors drive personal wealth, from the CEO down.



So no wonder advertising has become important again. In a digital age

where any technological innovation can be replicated in days, the brand

is again king. And, as distribution increasingly becomes direct, the way

the brand is seen through its advertising is the key to driving traffic

and sales.



The flip side of all this technology is accountability. Dotcom customers

see the effects of advertising in hours not days - it’s either driving

the business or not. But, hey, that’s what we wanted, isn’t it? For

advertising again to be central to the client’s business and for what we

do to be valued.



So rejoice, but don’t get complacent. Seats at the ’top table’ come with

a price.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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