MARKETING FORUM: Walsh attacks decorative ads during Marketing Forum rant

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.

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,

Peugeot, Fiat).

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?’


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