Editorial: Is advertising's rallying cry falling on deaf ears?

Yes, we would say it, wouldn't we: "It's important to continue advertising in a downturn." But the ad industry cannot say it often enough.

So the IPA's saying it again. In the same week the economy was mauled, the IPA enshrined the "keep spending" sentiment in a new report, Advertising in a Downturn.

The IPA's arguments will be familiar enough: cutting budgets is short-termist because, in the long term, slashing adspend can damage brands. The report argues that maintaining share-of-voice is crucial in a downturn, and if your competitors are cutting their budgets, it's a sure way to get ahead of the pack. And for plenty of brand categories, cutting budgets will only increase price elasticity and, therefore, the need to cut prices to maintain volume.

The IPA's report is robustly scientific, at least in comparison to a lot of adland's attempts at proving effectiveness. But all the charts and stats aside, the basic message is that slashing adspend isn't a good idea if long-term brand health is important (and when isn't it?).

One thing you don't need charts and stats to explain is that cutting back on advertising can have a profound effect on a brand's image.

Advertising is about creating a set of values and emotions around a brand that sets it apart from its competitors; cut back on that and you're asking your brand to slug it out on the basis of less emotive purchase decisions - such as price and product performance.

It's hard to imagine you'll find anyone in advertising who'll disagree with any of this. Even marketers will be supportive of the arguments. But where the message needs to hit home is in client boardrooms, with chief executives and finance directors. The sad fact is that the ad industry has less purchase on these decision-makers than ever before.

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