Not as Advertised: Moving Beyond Traditional Definitions

In my first advertising class, my professor told us that advertising was: “A paid form of communication with the objective of selling a good or service.” Advertising would therefore be the profession that plans, designs, and writes advertisements. However, so much of advertising these days does not even involve these traditional definitions.

Here’s why:

1. Most advertising agencies are now big data warehouses filled with just as many programmers as account people.

Agencies are waking up to the fact that data is now a determinant of whether an agency lives or dies. As such, they mirror software development companies as much as agencies.  It’s no coincidence that the primary conversation about the Publicis-Omnicom merger has revolved around data. People in ad land wonder whether a merger gives the two ginormous networks the ability to compete with the likes of Google.

2. PR and advertising are increasingly falling under the same roof.

Even a few years ago, it used to be that advertising and PR were separate things. They still are to a degree, but the rise of social media and other forms of multi-way communication has signaled that the two industries will inevitably collide. It’s not unusual to see advertising firms doing PR and vice versa. That’s why buyouts like that of  Allen & Gerritsen’s of Neiman Group make perfect sense. And that’s why articles like the 10 Differences Between Advertising and Public Relations will soon lose relevance.

3. Advertising is a parity industry–agencies need to secure business, not be a slave to definition.

There’s a reason that most agencies have slightly different terms for the same job. Agencies call my internship position anything from human insights to account planning, because they are looking for ways to differentiate themselves. At PJA Advertising + Marketing, I asked my supervisor , Hugh Kennedy, EVP of Planning, about whether the agency at one time focused more on B2C. He said, to paraphrase, that the agency started with a large variety of clients but moved towards a B2B specialization. Through capitalizing on this specialization, PJA was able to grow from a 15 person shop to the present day 63 person shop. In order to survive and thrive agencies need to find something they excel at. The agency that finds a real niche is the one that will last.

Although a catvertising department might not work, John St. projects their unique, humorous culture through this promotional video.

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