Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Opportunity Finds Empowerment

(continued from Ideas that Empower, see 5/31/07 below)

Okay, we’re ready to take a stab at refreshing our definition of advertising for the 21st century. Based on our discussion from previous posts, we’re beginning from a definition established in 1904 by John E. Kennedy when he said advertising is “salesmanship in print.” Kennedy’s definition superseded the idea that advertising was “keeping your name before the public” or that advertising was “news about a product”.

Let’s consider three things we’ve learned about advertising over the years related to timing, relationships with media, and empowering ideas.

Our new definition of advertising should capture the idea that advertising is effective when it is relevant to the consumer at a particular point in time. For advertising to work, there has to be opportunity. A consumer must have a need or a hope (although this could be latent or sub-conscious), and the means for fulfillment. The advertising message should be present when it is most relevant to the consumer.

Our new definition of advertising should also respect the “delivery” of the advertising message. “Delivery” is something of a misnomer. Advertising is discovered, rather than delivered. It is found because a consumer has a relationship with a particular media vehicle where the advertising also visits. For advertising to be welcome, it should respect the relationship between the consumer and the media.

Finally, our new definition of advertising should recognize that successful advertising motivates and empowers individuals. Empowering communications enable consumers to find what they need (rationally or emotionally) in the ad message.

Our new definition for advertising in the 21st century might begin as follows: Advertising is an empowering expression (an idea) in search of a hopeful prospect with the means for fulfillment. In other words, advertising is “Empowerment seeking Opportunity.”

“Empowerment seeking Opportunity” sounds a lot like “salesmanship in print,” doesn’t it? Only it’s not as pithy. “Empowerment seeking Opportunity” defines the challenge we face as planners and advertisers, but we’re not finished yet. Our definition needs to be turned around to more accurately portray the relatively weaker position of advertising to the stronger position of the consumer. We chase prospects until they catch us.

Success in advertising is the result of opportunity finding empowerment through relationships with media and the ideas expressed therein. We might better say that advertising is the catalyst for Opportunity finding Empowerment. “Opportunity finding Empowerment” frames our understanding of the challenges we face better than its opposite, “Empowerment seeking Opportunity” which is simply another way of saying “salesmanship in print.”

In 2001, Bob Brennan (then President of Leo Burnett Worldwide), made the following observation:

Until recently, our industry has been dominated by the creative function at the exclusion of all else. Creative is essential, but the leading marketing communications companies of the future will have three core competencies:

Fact-driven customer knowledge at the individual level derived from sophisticated database management tools;

Superior media capabilities that allow us to effectively make contact and interact with our target consumer across a variety of media disciplines;

Innovative, creative ideas, flawlessly executed, that inspire and motivate consumers to invite the brand into their lives.

In the 21st century, our success in advertising will depend on our ability to act as catalysts for enabling Opportunity to find Empowerment.


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