International Business Media: Editors on advertising

The men who edit three of the best-known global business and news titles share their thoughts on advertising's place in the world.

RAJU NARISETTI - Wall Street Journal Europe

Is advertising getting better or worse?

Better, definitely. It's adapting to our shorter attention spans and the explosion of media choices. Technology has given us more tools to measure it, and that old cliche "half of my advertising budget is wasted, I just don't know which half" is becoming less accurate.

How seriously do chief executives take advertising?

Very. For one good reason, and one not so good. First, because they know that great campaigns have the power to leave a lasting impression or a call for action. And second, because it looks like a lot of money being spent and they're wondering about its value.

They realise that advertising is as critical as ever in how it can generate and sustain business momentum, but they're increasingly saying "show me that it works".

How sophisticated is the ad industry compared with other industries?

Just as there are smart businesses in industry, there are less smart ones too - and advertising is no different. The likes of WPP seem to be doing a good job of offering clients integrated marketing across various platforms and business units.

But there is a lingering structural issue. The ad industry needs to do a better job of measuring itself - methods such as cost-per-eyeball seem outdated currencies to me.

How healthy is the global economy?

Despite the oil situation, it's surprisingly resilient. The budget deficit in the US, continuing instability in the Middle East and major structural problems with the big Western European economies are the big obstacles.

Beyond the Bric economies, which countries do you tip to become the big business centres of the future?

Recent problem countries - Germany and Japan, in particular - have the potential to regain former glories. New European Union members, such as Poland and Turkey, are worth watching too. And Dubai is building more broad-based businesses after oil money gave it a kick-start.

What's your favourite ad?

I tend to fall in love with taglines. The best transcend what a company does, are simple, elegant, compact and memorable. I like Visa's: "It's everywhere you want to be." Then there's VW's "Drivers wanted." But my favourite is "we try harder" for Avis.

- Raju Narisetti is the editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe

JAMES GEARY - Time Europe

Is advertising getting better or worse?

One thing I've noticed is that advertising seems to be taking a more savvy, knowing tone in its messaging as consumers grow more sophisticated.

But when it does this, it's not always clear what the message is. I would imagine this has proved a success with the iPod generation, but I'm not so sure it works when you're trying to appeal to older generations. You're obviously in serious trouble if you get it wrong - there are so many more ways people spend their time beyond watching ads.

How seriously do chief executives take advertising?

It would be insane for a chief executive of a consumer products company not to take advertising seriously as a direct selling tool.

Beyond FMCGs, it's not unusual for chief executives to get personally involved with advertising campaigns as they look to build and protect their brands. Oil and chemical companies are busy telling us they do not just care about selling stuff, but care about the planet too. And look at McDonald's. It's had a lot of bad press, but is fighting back by advertising new healthier options and is saying: "Hey, this isn't the McDonald's of old."

How sophisticated is the advertising industry compared with other industries?

I don't follow the advertising industry in depth. But from what I can see, it is rather like publishing in the sense that they're both old industries and do not seem to have caught on to the whole internet thing.

Also, a trend I've noticed is the rise of the boutique agency - small dotcom-like businesses that are finding interesting ways to target consumers, such as guerrilla activity, and have successfully identified and captured a zeitgeist. They are sure to have a big impact on how the industry evolves.

What's the best advertising you've ever seen, and why?

I know I shouldn't say nice things about our ads, but I really do like the Time campaign where our red border frames an important person or event.

However, the best ad I've ever seen was for The Economist. I was at Heathrow airport and written across the sliding doors of a train were the words: "Are your arguments so easily pulled apart?"

- James Geary is the editor of Time Europe


Is advertising getting better or worse?

I'd say that advertising tends to move with the times.

How seriously do chief executives take advertising?

Anybody who spends or makes money takes advertising seriously.

How sophisticated is the ad industry compared with other industries?

I think the ad industry is very adept at keeping up with culture and trends. One thing that impresses me when I talk to media agency people who buy Newsweek for their clients is that they read - really read - the magazine. If they don't, they're doing their own clients a disservice.

How healthy is the international medium at the moment?

Advertising is down for almost everybody, almost everywhere. People who proclaimed the death of print media in the 80s argued that readers wouldn't need us anymore.

Fortunately, that prediction has been proved wrong. Unfortunately, what has happened is that the advertising dollar, or pound, is getting sliced up into thinner and thinner pieces, so there's less of it to go around.

What is the best advertising you've ever seen, and why?

I've seen quite a lot of good ads recently. The best ad I've seen (this week, actually) was on a billboard. It was the "labyrinth" execution for The Economist (unfortunately).

- Stryker Maguire is the London bureau chief of Newsweek.

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