The mass media is already facing tough times, which are being made unnecessarily tougher by consumer ignorance on the role advertising plays in society. Chris Moerdyk suggests the ad industry is its own worst enemy.
Not only are above-the-line media being challenged by increasing moves towards online and other so-called new media, but they face losing billions of rands in revenue as a result of government’s determination to ban outright, or at least significantly restrict, liquor, fast food and other types of advertising.
Advertising has become a soft target for everyone from government to a growing number of lobby groups who realise that attacks on the ad industry don’t lose votes for politicians nor damage the credibility of even the most extreme of the many self-appointed protectors of consumer morality, wallets and thoughts.
For decades now, I have had meetings with ad industry leaders who always swear blind they are about to start on a process of educating the public on the benefits of advertising.
I have no seen any action whatsoever.
Which, quite frankly, leads me to the conclusion that the ad industry is either under such pressure or so self absorbed that it simply does not have the time to protect its own turf.
Sometimes I even get the feeling that the ad industry doesn’t have the inclination to defend itself. Although, when I talk to individual agency heads, all of them agree it is absolutely vital that something is done to generate public confidence in the industry.
I am not holding my breath.
The only answer now is for the media to step in and do something to put a halt to what will become an increasing tsunami of calls to ban or restrict advertising.
The solution is actually quite simple.
There are, for starters, an enormous number of case histories, from all over the world, which give examples of the unintended consequences of advertising restrictions. Not only in terms of the money lost by the media but more so how these restrictions and bans negatively affect the consumer.
How restricting advertising not only restricts consumer choice but most importantly, how advertising plays a crucial role in keeping prices down or more alarmingly, how a lack of advertising can cause prices to increase.
I am convinced that if our mass media used its unsold inventory to run an advertising campaign on how devastating a world without advertising would be for the consumer, it would open a lot of closed minds.
Right now, if you listen to any radio talk show on advertising, one fact comes through very strongly. And that is the average consumer thinks the ad industry is simply a form of trivial pursuit youngsters get involved in so they can drive Porsches.
It is quite remarkable that the ad and media industries cannot see the dangers of the situation as it exists at present. It is not only staring them in the face but also grabbing their lapels and yelling at them.
The mass media, in my opinion, cannot leave it to the ad industry to protect them from what is becoming a crisis as revenue degeneration increases.
They have to do it themselves.
Because it seems the ad industry is in a state of complete denial and prefers to spend its time and money on pointless self-adulation at awards events.
Not only are events like the Loeries awards entrenching consumer perceptions that the ad industry is self indulgent and nothing more, but the increasing number of singularly stupid advertisements that are clearly being created to impress peers and to win awards just adds to that perception.
I have long held the view that the ad industry is often its own worst enemy and with all these little battles it is having with itself, it is losing the war.