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The Homeopathic Ad

February, 2018

I am not talking about advertising little bottles of “curative” water. I am talking about the thousands of ads which every year lead companies to think they are advertising. These ads produce no results they, like their health-store brethren, contain nothing of value. There may be a placebo effect, but it does nothing for the patient in the long run. It also does little for the ad industry. Managers inevitably come away with a lack of confidence in the practice of advertising and the industry as a whole.

I will not pretend to have data that shows what percentage of these non-ads are generated by agencies, in-house or “talented” brothers-in-law, but if you randomly look at 100 ads, you will be hard pressed to find 3% that are strategically sound, tactically useful and well executed.

Perhaps this bothers me more than most because I have always felt good companies deserve the resources to produce compelling, imaginative, and strategically sound advertising, no matter the companies’ size. Building and growing a business is arduous enough, throwing good money after bad with poor advertising is an unnecessary hurdle.

The remarkable growth in social/digital media usage I fear is only making the matter worse. While there have been some truly outstanding examples of their use, banners, blogs, videos, et al. have made it not only easier for advertisers to use, it has spawned a small nation of companies which have minimal strategic, tactical or even necessary advertising credentials.

Now I know much of this problem lies squarely at the feet of the advertisers themselves. Either through misguided direction, giving the responsibility to someone with no background in advertising (and probably too many other duties), or the belief they know what’s best are all too common. Frankly, after many years in the business, I have never found a workaround for those situations. On the other hand, I believe progress is possible; it just requires a change in thinking.

The ad industry is currently examining diversity, generally centered on gender; this dialog is a good thing. However, there are few industries as “ageist” as ours, and little discussion has occurs on that subject. There are innumerable experienced, highly qualified advertising people now sidelined because they had some gray hair showing. Maybe their salaries got a little too high. Their experience, ability to get to the heart of a message, skills to execute are precisely what the average advertiser needs. Let’s organize this workforce and make them available to advertisers. I think it is a discussion worth having, what do you think?


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