As yet another year draws to a close, I have to admit that I’ve been having some angsty, existential pangs in a “and what have you done?” sort of mode. Not in a full-on George Bailey-James Stewart manner, but irritating twinges, nonetheless.
What am I still doing in this business, at my age?
Couldn’t I have put my education and talents to better use?
Why am I just a touch ashamed to admit, these days, that my working life has been spent in advertising?
Thirty years ago, in London, every taxi driver knew the name Saatchi & Saatchi. Respondents in group discussions regularly joked about enjoying the ads more than the programmes. Our agency hired Alexandra Palace for the Christmas party - and I nonchalently flew off to LA the next day on three hours’ sleep for client product experience with British Airways.
It’s fashionable to regard advertising as a rather sorry, grubby little business these days. The glamour has passed its sell-by date and attempts are made to elevate it from the snake-oil salesman via association with super-scientific data-driven rigour or a holier-than-thou world-saving loftiness. The rot set in already in the 1990s when Kevin Roberts proclaimed Saatchis to be an “Ideas Company” rather than an advertising agency.
But now and again, I read an article which warms the cockles of my old ad woman’s heart. And I’ll end my blog posts for this year with this marvellous article by Tom Roach . Although the main theme is the much-hyped imminent death of advertising, the underlying message is that maybe those working in the business could be a touch prouder of what they do.
How the advertising industry uses the power of human imagination for commercial impact should be something we’re all in awe of.
As a measure of that commercial impact, Tom quotes a Deloitte study which estimates that every $1 spent on ads generates $6 in broader economic impact. Not bad for a grubby little industry - one of the few true proven levers of growth.
The role we play in driving the economy, and therefore society, forward is something we should be proud of. We often highlight advertising’s societal impact when talking about social purpose, but advertising’s economic impact alone should be a sufficient source of pride.
Well, maybe if you put it like that ... I may hang on in here for a while yet!