Are these old ads more 'kin' tat than King Tut?
A view from Jeremy Lee

Are these old ads more 'kin' tat than King Tut?

It's a shame that among the steps the industry plans to take to improve levels of trust in advertising, it failed to include "stop taking yourself so seriously".

But then again we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy this particular gem from Geoff Russell, the chairman of the History of Advertising Trust and former director of media affairs at the IPA. Describing the moment that he set eyes on some boxes of old ads donated to HAT by Ebiquity he gasped: "I felt like Howard Carter opening Tutankhamun’s tomb."

Yeah, sure you did Geoff. While they don’t qualify as midden, some dusty 50-year-old tearsheets and U-matics of old ads and regional door-drops are unlikely to contribute as much to human learning as artefacts that bore witness to one of the most extraordinary periods in ancient Egyptian history.

What’s slightly more revealing is the admission by Ebiquity that it was cheaper to send the archive up on lorries to HAT’s Norfolk headquarters than to dump them – a triumph for the landfill tax that has also had happy consequences for HAT, and good luck to them. They’ll surely be hoping that that the curse of Tutankhamun doesn’t strike twice.

While it’s lucky that Russell’s hyperbole, which was both brilliantly daft and highly amusing at the same time, won’t have been heard outside of the narrow confines of the ad industry, it’s good to see that the Advertising Association is at least taking the issue of the public’s mistrust of advertising seriously.

Among the measures it announced at the ISBA conference earlier this week was a plan to reduce the "bombardment" of ads, which was judged the biggest factor to contribute to negative feelings about advertising. Keith Weed, the outgoing chief marketing officer at Unilever and president of the AA, acknowledged that restoring favourability in advertising after a period of long decline won’t be an easy one (and you could argue that much of its misfortunes is of its own programmatically induced making). 

Weed concluded: "We are only at the beginning and this is Phase 1 of a longer-term action plan. System change is required, and everyone involved in our advertising ecosystem – advertiser, media owner, agency and tech company – has a vital role to play." And so do people in danger of helping to inflate advertising’s already swollen sense of self-importance.

Jeremy Lee is contributing editor at Campaign

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