Amanda Walsh, the co-founder of Walsh Trott Chick Smith, hit out
against ’decorative advertising’ in a combative and controversial rant
on board the Oriana.
In a speech entitled ’Advertising is no longer functional, it’s
decorative’, Walsh acknowledged that she would offend people because she
named examples of what she believed was bad advertising.
Praising the likes of Levi’s and Boddingtons for managing to combine
both the function of selling and enough decorativeness to engage the
consumer, Walsh began by arguing that there were three essential aims of
functional advertising: get yourself noticed, ensure the ad is correctly
attributable to your brand, and communicate a simple core message.
But, Walsh argued, the majority of ads do not do this. Using the latest
Barclaycard, BT and Beck’s work as examples, she said that each
suggested commercials for other brands as much as the product
advertised, and that the end reveal could be for anyone.
’It looks like everyone is trying to be illusive in order to be
different in order to get noticed,’ Walsh said. ’And because getting
noticed has become the sole objective, everyone ends up looking the same
and as far as the consumer is concerned one ad blends into the
She acknowledged that increased clutter in a world of fragmenting media
was the reason that advertisers sought stand-out, but argued it was not
enough to get noticed visually. ’You need to leave consumers with a
single thought about your brand,’ Walsh said.
Rejection was not the greatest danger facing brands, she said, but
Walsh suggested two key reasons why advertising has stopped being
functional and has become more decorative: developing a creative
strategy wasn’t treated as a rigorous exercise, and creative departments
were not focused on selling. She claimed marketers had become lazy and
did not try hard enough to identify a single core message, then went on
to damn agencies that claimed ’there’s no such thing as a USP anymore’.
Too many agencies thought it enough for consumers to like an ad.
’If you can’t find a USP in the product, how about examining the market
in a lateral way and creating or claiming a USP by repositioning your
brand - that takes even more perspiration,’ Walsh said.
She went on to argue that too many brands behaved like market leaders
when they were challenger brands (NatWest, Sainsbury’s, Adidas), and
that there was not enough attention paid to basic branding (Honda,
Walsh concluded by asking: ’Why is everyone so frightened of
Do they really think it’s a dirty word? If so, why are they in the
business of advertising?’