Editorial: Cracknell reality check comes at the right time

Britain's ad industry has long been a victim of its own self-obsession. Now the warnings that it must rid itself of such insularity or rue the consequences are growing louder.

In her call for the business to take a more robust approach to those hostile to it, Peta Buscombe, the Advertising Association's chief executive, warned the recent ISBA conference of the dangers of adland spending too much time talking to itself. Now Andrew Cracknell, one of the industry's most experienced creative chiefs, extends that argument (page 26). He makes a case that the business has become too preoccupied with what is going on within itself, and is becoming out of touch with the world at large.

Cracknell's view, echoed by Murray MacLennan in his inaugural address as the IPA president, is that the public is less interested in advertising than those working in it would like to believe. At worst, they hate it. At best, they are neutral. Few are likely to declare undying love for it. But, as Cracknell points out, you could be forgiven for thinking it exists in a hermetically sealed world, far away from reality.

Together, these views build a discomforting picture of the industry. One that is in danger of adopting an over-inflated sense of its own importance, of regarding creativity as an end in itself, of not keeping the public onside, but leaving it exposed to some of the spurious ideas of the anti-ad lobby.

Most worrying is that adland's self-obsessives grow ever more forgetful about who bankrolls them. As one creative director said when talking about the creation of TV ads: "We're not in the business of making sponsored short films."

As media grows more fragmented, it's easy to forget that most people don't see advertising any differently from other forms of communication. Also, advertising doesn't dominate the public's conversations. An outstanding and high-profile piece will get talked about, but that is the exception, not the rule. Cracknell's reality check is a timely one.