Since when did advertising become a dirty word?

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Fran Clayton.jpeg

By Fran Clayton (left), chief strategy officer, DDB Sydney

If advertising is the art and craft of selling products and building brands, then I’m proud to say that I work at an advertising agency.

As he often did, Bill Bernbach spoke the truth when he said, “The purpose of advertising is to sell. That is what the client is paying for and if that goal does not permeate every idea you get, every word you write, every picture you take, you are a phony and you ought to get out of the business.”

When I first read this quote, it struck a chord. It reminded me to be proud, not apologetic for what we do. It made me think of the euphemisms that people in our industry use to distance themselves from the word advertising. They’d rather use words like ‘content’ and ‘ideas’, but what’s the point of content and ideas if they do not sell?

I’m not talking about short, spikey results, but real sustainable business growth. That’s what we should be paid to do; that’s the whole point of our industry and lately it seems we’ve lost sight of that.

I think it’s time we started sticking up for ads and advertising. Like most things in life, advertising can be shit, but it can also be amazing. It’s no wonder that we as an industry struggle to prove our value when we can’t even take pride in our own product. 

I’m not advocating for a return to the past, and when I use the word advertising I’m not talking about traditional formats, although they deserve to be defended too. An ad is anything that uses creativity to communicate, whether it be a film in a feed or a statue on the street. 

I know that our industry needs to evolve and grow. But let’s not do away with the art and craft of telling stories, evoking emotions, challenging assumptions, moving people to act, and ultimately building brands. The value we offer must be much more than coming up with ideas and creating stuff.