The month in advertising: A love letter to the industry

There is so much to be optimistic about the future of advertising and communications.

The month in advertising: A love letter to the industry

Dear adland,

There is a precarious nature to the world of advertising and media, even at the best of times, because there is something magical and intangible about ideas and invention.

That is why this industry attracts so many brilliant, creative, entrepreneurial and fun-loving people, who push boundaries, think differently, take risks and are resilient.

These are all qualities that are needed to survive and prosper, especially now in these extraordinarily difficult times as coronavirus sweeps the world.

We are living through a "Black Swan" moment – a shock with dramatic ramifications that few could have easily predicted.

Tens of thousands of people have already died from coronavirus, economic growth forecasts have been ripped up, millions of jobs have been lost or "furloughed" and national governments have sanctioned huge bailouts, with no end yet in sight for this global health emergency.

All of the things that have fuelled the expansion of the last decade – the march of globalisation and technology, the power of instant communications, digital media’s ability to drive growth, the rise of "just-in-time" supply chains and the emergence of the freelance "gig economy" – have conspired to halt the world economy with devastating speed. 

The imminent recession is set to smash records, and advertising and marketing budgets have been among the first to be cut – as they so often are in a sudden downturn.

Predictions at the start of 2020 that this would be an 11th consecutive year for global ad expenditure growth have proved too good to be true. 

At the time of writing, pessimists fear the UK ad market could be facing a fall of up to 50% in April in the fastest downturn in advertising history.

A champion for this industry

So now, more than ever, with marketers, agencies and media owners under immense pressure, we need to champion the role of this wonderful industry.

Advertising and communications are a vital energy force that improves lives – by driving growth, building brands, generating emotion and changing behaviour.

This is an industry that persuades and informs, that entertains and does good, that funds content and shapes culture.

And it employs hundreds of thousands of people in the UK and millions globally.

Ultimately, advertising matters because it is how a company or an organisation communicates what it stands for.

No wonder so many of the new breed of digital and ecommerce businesses have invested in their brands in the last decade. They know advertising is rocket fuel for growth.

And Campaign’s role is clear. Ever since we launched as "the newspaper of the communications business" in 1968, we have been a champion of change, growth, creativity and commercial excellence.

More than half a century later, our belief in the enduring importance of creativity to drive forward this industry remains paramount. We create or else, to adapt David Ogilvy.

That means we celebrate creativity in its broadest sense: winning a pitch and planning a campaign, founding and expanding a business, recruiting talent and building a team, developing new products and "A/B" testing software.

The UK itself is a creative country – and, just like Brexit, coronavirus does not change that.

If anything, the early weeks of this crisis have unleashed a burst of creativity, as many of us have suddenly found ourselves working from home and our industry has been keen to volunteer by making products and creating messages that can save lives.

The need for change

While the importance of creativity and commercial excellence has never been in doubt, it has been harder to be certain about the advertising industry’s ability to remain at the forefront of change and growth.

In some ways, the last two decades have been a triumph for this industry as media companies have become some of the world’s most valuable businesses.

But a lot of advertising revenue has ended up in the hands of just a handful of Silicon Valley giants, the online ecosystem has suffered from fraud and abuse, and creative effectiveness and trust have been in decline.

Many established media owners, agency groups and brands have struggled to keep pace with change in recent years.

This industry is full of innovators and entrepreneurs yet it also has a streak of sentimentality that means it clings to the past and is resistant to change.

Coronavirus will accelerate change that was already overdue

If change and growth were already watchwords for the ad industry in 2020, they have now become imperatives.

Many companies are facing a battle for financial survival in the coming months.

The turmoil is going to cause pain and hardship and could reshape business as well as society in violent ways.

But there was a sense, long before coronavirus struck, that this industry was already on the cusp of a watershed.

More digitisation and automation are going to happen and the world of work might look very different soon, as some of the processes of the past are swept away.

Greater diversity of thought and diversity of talent remain essential for this industry to progress.

Yet there is so much to be optimistic about the future of advertising and communications because the sector continues to attract brilliantly talented people while advances in technology are going to spur on greater creativity and innovation.

You can count on Campaign to continue to be an energy force by your side, encouraging and demanding change, growth, creativity and commercial excellence.

Right now, we all need a lot of love to help us to get through this crisis. 

But we are certain about one thing: creativity will prevail.