A Letter to the Industry: Why Advertising Matters

And how to save it with creative technology

Dear advertising industry—clients, potential clients, partners, collaborators, creatives, strategists, brand marketers and everyone else who reads Muse by Clio:

Right now it feels like advertising is broadly disdained, even by the people who make it. Everywhere from Fishbowl to LinkedIn to recent surveys, advertising professionals are over it all. Among advertising professionals, more than half of us think that "advertising is a waste of time." Two-thirds (66 percent) believe that "brands who express views on political or social issues are just trying to exploit them." I could go on, but you get the point. Right now, we have a very low opinion of what we do.

And yet, what we do is important. Advertising is part of the critical infrastructure of modern life. Arguably one of the most critical pieces of infrastructure there is. Advertising is indispensable to capitalism, which for all its flaws remains the best source of social mobility in the U.S. and around the world. If capitalism is the engine of social mobility, advertising is the gasoline that it runs on.

Beyond that, advertising supports the free flow of information on the internet—if you like The New York Times, you like advertising. If you like the internet in general, you like advertising. The entire operating system that runs modern life, runs on advertising. In fact, the average consumer spends roughly 13 hours a day interacting with ad-supported media. Advertising either directly funds or heavily subsidizes the majority of sources that people use to decide everything from who they should vote for, to what they think about a range of social issues, to what they should do with their money.

It should alarm us all, then, that advertising is in as rough shape as it is. The people who make it don't respect it, the consumers who watch it by and large don't enjoy it, and the clients who fund it are increasingly frustrated with it. These are the problems we, collectively, need to address.

If advertising is to thrive, it needs to be better overall. Easier to make, so that the industry doesn't turn over 30 percent of its employees every single year. More effective, so that clients are more able to make the business case for it. And above all, more enjoyable for the people who watch it, so they tune it out less.

But how can we make advertising better? Knowing that if some companies, leaders and innovators don't start changing how we think and work now that the industry as we know it will die, we're investing in technology. And in order for us to go a step further and embrace technology, it will need to be made by creative people. The industry is littered with companies who have made a technology solution that will work for creative people who adapt their process to the technology. These technologies fail because they are fundamentally backwards. We have to adapt the technology to the people, if we expect them to use it.

Together, we need to build technology for creative people, by creative people, to make the industry we work in a little bit better. Because advertising matters, not just for the people who make it, but for the free flow of information on the internet. We can't let something so important to our everyday lives and something we really do love continue to struggle because we're not willing to change. 

Profile picture for user Mike Barrett
Mike Barrett
Mike Barrett is co-founder and CSO at Supernatural.

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