The Truth about modern advertising

The Truth About Modern Advertising

The Truth about modern advertisingAs the marketing industry continues to find new and engaging ways to place ads in front of consumers, I would like to offer a truth about modern advertising.

For all the promise of authenticity, transparency and noninvasiveness that “inbound” and “digital” marketers vowed to deliver in Y2K, the truth is far from the pledge. Advertising in the 21st century is every bit as invasive – if not more so – than it ever was before.

Have you tried watching a YouTube video recently? How about reading an article in a digital magazine? Going through your daily email? The digital and inbound marketing community makes endless assaults on the consumer. And they are every bit as offensive, if not worse than traditional advertising.

Just this morning I read with interest how Source Digital is offering Source Activate Moments “where consumers can engage by activating what is on the screen in that exact moment.” According to Martech Today, “The SAMs appear embedded in the video; they don’t interrupt it as a traditional ad would.”

I love that. Spoken like a true inbound/digital marketer. Kind of like saying “If I sneak up on you and annoy you it is not nearly as bad as if I am right next to you and you expect it.” Riiiiiight…

Here’s the truth about modern advertising, unfiltered and unapologetic. Advertising is an essential driver of our capitalist society. It pays for consumer entertainment, it helps organizations create awareness about their products and services, and it helps consumers become aware of products and services they may want or need. And when it is well-done, it is also educational and/or entertaining.

Traditional advertising is at least honest in that you know it when you see it. You expect it and are rarely fooled by it. You may not like most of it, but in fact, some of it is brilliant and more entertaining than the TV show or movie you were watching or the song you just heard on the radio.

Nontraditional advertising, on the other hand, often pretends to be something other than what it is. It loves to just pop up when you least expect it, and stop you from doing whatever it was you were doing. And in the end, that makes it twice as annoying. But I digress.

I believe all advertising (well, at least most) has purpose and value. It’s not all good, but some of it is outstanding (kind of like the videos you watch on YouTube). But the truth about modern advertising is that we need it. Businesses need it to create awareness, promote and sell products. Consumers need it to learn about the products and promotions. And the media need it to stay in business. And not just traditional media; Google, Facebook, Instagram, and every other digital platform also need it.

It is a new world for sure, but advertising is still a part of it. Consider that in 2019, ad revenue in the U.S. exceeded $250 billion, half of that was “online” advertising and the other half was TV, radio, print and OOH.

If I could influence opinion (or at least the conversation), I would encourage advertisers to create a dialogue with consumers. Empower them to choose the types and amounts of advertising they want to see, listen to or read. Let them be a part of the process. Let’s continue to be honest here: if I am not purchasing a car in 2021, I really do not need to be assaulted by a seemingly endless number of car ads throughout the year. Likewise, just because I “Googled” a pair of shoes, does not mean I want to see a thousand shoe ads for the next month.

In light of all we’ve experienced during 2020, wouldn’t “truth” be a welcome guest?

Jim Sweeney


Jim is a veteran of the agency industry and the founder of Sweeney. He is uncommonly passionate about the idea of creating and implementing insanely great marketing campaigns that achieve insanely great results. He pioneered the full-service, full-circle agency model and continues to forge new ideas in an ever-changing industry. And he is accessible to everyone about anything, seemingly all the time, serving as a mentor to all agency personnel and clients.