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
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
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