Opinion: Perspective - Why it is time to rethink the advertising lexicon

There's a single, relentless theme strung throughout this week's issue: change or die.

I doubt whether this is much of a revelation to anyone in advertising (and here's the first conundrum: should we ditch "advertising" as a term?). It certainly shouldn't be, though I can think of one or two (particularly creatives) who I reckon have their heads buried deep in the sand.

From Chris Ingram (page 14) to Nick Howarth (page 15), Profero's Nick Blunden (page 6) and Russell Davies (page 11), all agree the old advertising model is shot. So last year was a year of worrying about change: into what? Now 2007 must be the year change really starts to happen.

Not that many seem to have found a wholly satisfactory answer to the "into what" question. But straight off I have two pretty significant examples for you: glue London, the digital creative hotshop, is pitching for the above-the-line Eurostar account, and Bartle Bogle Hegarty has just taken on lead agency status on the Lynx/Axe digital account (despite the fact that the digital agency Dare has done some phenomenal creative work for the brand).

Even the IPA is ringing the warning bell, with its new Future of Advertising and Agencies report - a fascinating must-read despite the fact that it spends many pages and endless tables to come to some pretty obvious conclusions. What's really interesting about the report, though, is its attempts to nudge fundamental change about how the industry defines itself, the whole semantics of the business.

What will the word "agency" mean in this changed future? Lots of things, the IPA believes: agency as media owner; agency as joint venture partner; agency as content collaborator; agency as programme producer; agency as network creator; agency as data provider; agency as data aggregator.

And that's even before you rehearse the current raging debate referred to in this week's issue about whether agencies should actually go back to doing all the usual stuff (media, creative, direct, digital) under one roof.

All the hackneyed silo terms about above and below the line are embarrassingly inadequate as descriptors of the different agency approaches. Again the IPA has some suggestions, too clunky but it's a start: "named" advertising would be the term for DM, "not named" would be the term for everything else; "screen" would be the term for, well, ads that appear on screens, "non-screen" for everything else; interactive ads would be called "two-way", passive ads would be called "one-way".

Some of these suggestions are ridiculously superfluous: what's wrong with "direct" or "interactive". But I applaud the IPA for having a go and getting the debate up and running amongst its members. Now I'd officially like to invite alternative suggestions, e-mail them to us at campaign@haymarket.com.

Clearly resolution is quite a way off, and no-one expects there to be just one right route. But the good news for agencies that can navigate the challenges and broaden their offer is the opportunity it presents to readdress the remuneration issue.

For if agencies are nagging away about how they should be changing, so too are clients. Clients' need for a partner (and surely one partner would be better than several) to advise through the revolution is an opportunity to reassert agencies as business partners rather than suppliers and to price their service as such.

The shock decision of Asda's Rick Bendel to ditch his old agency, Publicis, in favour of Fallon is the first juicy story of the year. It's riddled with fascinating politics: wasn't Bendel responsible for Asda's advertising while he was at Publicis? Bendel says not for several years, Publicis insiders would beg to differ.

But politics aside, Asda needs better advertising and Fallon is Campaign's Agency of the Year. If Bendel lets Fallon get on with it, it's sure to prove a great decision.



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