I often read articles and comments from people about ‘the advertising industry’.
As if it existed as a single unit, or a governing body.
Like the FA, or UEFA.
A single authority that told us all what to do, and we all meekly complied.
I read comments like “It’s time advertising got its act together?”
Or “When will advertising realise it needs to stand up to clients’ demands.”
Or “Why won’t advertising do more to help young people get jobs?”
Or “Has advertising got a vested interest in only hiring from approved sources?”
I don’t understand any of this.
It presumes there is a club called the advertising industry and we are all part of it.
We are allowed to belong to it as long as we pay our dues and obey the rules.
As long as we all have the best interests of the advertising industry at heart.
As long as we meet up like a select group of old buffers and decide what’s best for everyone.
I don’t remember signing up for that.
I don’t remember agreeing to be part of anything.
In fact I don’t even remember agreeing that anything like the advertising industry even existed.
What I remember is trying to do better work than everyone else.
Trying to kill their ads.
Trying to make sure people look at mine.
Why would I care about the rest of the so-called advertising industry?
They’re my competitors.
That’s like expecting Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger to be spokesmen for football.
It’s not their job to care about football.
It’s their job to care about how they beat everyone else in football.
And we’re in an even worse situation than they are.
Because at least they’re only competing with other football clubs.
We’re not just competing with other advertising.
We’re competing with everything else.
Howard Gossage put it best “People don’t read advertisements, they read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an advertisement.”
What’s wrong is we presume we’ve got an advertising industry.
Like there’s a television industry, or a newspaper industry, or a magazine industry, or a cinema industry.
There’s a glaring difference between what we do and what everyone else does.
People pay to see what they do, so they have an industry because people want it.
People don’t pay to see what we do.
We have to find a way to get noticed, to be interesting, to get remembered.
We aren’t like the football industry, no one pays to see us.
No one pays to buy the product of our industry, so we don’t have an industry.
We piggyback whatever else real industries are doing.
At least that’s what we do if we’re any good.
We manage to get seen, liked, and remembered, despite the fact that no one wants what we do.
And we get seen, liked, and remembered simply because we are better at it than everyone else.
We stand out as something fun, something worth their attention.
But not because we’re in an imaginary advertising industry.
In fact the best advertising works exactly because it isn’t part of some giant illusory advertising industry.
The best advertising is out on its own, competing with absolutely everything else.
That’s why it works.