Brand Advertising – how’s that working out for you?

About once every couple of months I see an article that propels me from mild-mannered agency owner to a frothing rage-face in a matter of seconds.

It’s usually a piece about advertising, and why it’s not fit for purpose in this shiny new modern world.

It happened again. The good people at The Drum let some unnamed reporter loose with a keyboard, and they asserted that ‘Brand Advertising is broken’ – based on a survey of 235 people ‘working in advertising’.

This ‘research’ then goes on to conclude that ‘the way marketers and agencies think about brand advertising has failed to keep up with the changing world’.


In my view it’s much simpler than that. The issue is the gulf between what clients are promised from their advertising, and what they actually get – and if anything, the ‘changing world’ simply shines a brighter light on some of the terrible advice they are given.

Let’s go back to basics for a moment. If you asked a cross section of the public to name three brands from a number of sectors, they’d probably manage it. They know the brands out there.

Ask them why they don’t buy from those brands and I’d bet your house that they’re not given enough good reasons to. It’s a lack of those horrible ‘features and benefits’ most ad professionals find so tedious. Sadly, it seems the world can’t run on aspiration alone.

If you change the delivery method of an uninspiring, confusing, uncompetitive, inaccessible or bland advertisement, you simply swap the audience for another group of people who won’t buy what you’re selling.

Marketers and clients have a duty to sense check what they’re offering potential customers. If you want an increase in sales revenue you have to offer things people want to buy at a price they can afford. And if that oh-so-simple proposition doesn’t stack up, all the promises of measurable response, and ‘attributable acquisition’ in the new digital world won’t mean a thing.

I learned in my first week as a copywriter that every ad is a branding ad. From the beautiful black horse and foal galloping across The Downs at dawn - to Barry Scott in his scummy bath squirting Cillit Bang – every ad creates an emotional response to its brand. The trick is to make that response positive enough to create new customers.

If you need proof that this is possible, campaigns like the Direct Line Harvey Keitel ads brilliantly show that it IS possible to promote a range of products, their features and benefits, a value offering, AND build great brand equity.

You see brand advertising isn’t broken, and it never will be. It just needs to be better.

Paul Carter