Advertising is probably the only profession in the world where you can finally put your dual major on Philosophy and Business to effective use. Its also probably the only profession where accountants, chemists, professors, dancers, business graduates – literally anyone can flourish. Its an ancient and great form of storytelling that has shaped our world for hundreds of years. As we motor along with advent of digital and social media, where conversation and word of mouth is the new currency, now seems as good a time as any to ask the question; “What is the future role of advertising”?
To predict the future we have to make sense of our present. And to make sense of present, we have to look back how we evolved. That’s why in this 3 part write-up, we will look at the past first and then the present and future of advertising.
The modern advertising owes a lot to quite a few pivotal moments in its history and a handful of remarkable individuals. It was Albert Lasker, fondly remembered as the father of modern advertising, who shaped the early ways of Advertising agency formation and culture at the turn of the century. When Raymond Rubicam hired George Gallup, it gave birth to research as an essential part of advertising. When Bill Bernbach gave his new office DDB, he was the first to put Art directors and Copywriters to work together instead of working in their silos focusing only on their part.
The most important development of Advertising in the middle of 20th century was the development of two school of thoughts, which addressed the question, “How can Advertising be more effective?” One school believed that primary role of advertising is to sell. For them advertising follows a structure where strategy is the key. They believed advertising originate from and appeals to head and therefore rational, to-the-point arguments should dominate. The most famous proponent of this school of thought is David Ogilvy, who was also the first Englishman to become famous in the Madison Avenue, New York, which is the mecca of advertising.
The other school of thought is led by the creative revolutionaries of the 1950s, led by the legendary Bill Bernbach. He claimed that advertising should appeal to heart. It is actually a higher form of art, hence cannot be rule bound. Its primarily role is to entertain, because if the consumer cannot remember you, then there can be no sell. The current day practice of full layout dominated by a picture, with one line copy which is often resorts to witty wordplay or shock tactics is the outcome of this movement in the 60s.
The longevity of both these school of thoughts prove that the answer to the question of advertising’s role probably is a hybrid of both of them.