Advertising is now taught as an academic subject.

It’s a sub-set of marketing.

So you can get a degree in marketing and one of your modules will be advertising.

You’ll do modules in: pricing & distribution theory, market research, brand planning, category management, ethical marketing, social and mobile media, presentation skills, and, oh yes, advertising.

So advertising is just a part of a marketing person’s job.

Once you’ve got everything else right, you’ll look at the advertising.

Because, if you get everything else right the advertising must work.

Hmmm, I wonder.

Let’s look at that from another angle.

Bill Bernbach said, “If no-one notices your advertising, everything else is academic”.

That’s important enough to repeat.

“If no-one notices your advertising, everything else is academic.”

That’s the word ‘academic’ used rather differently.

We know that £18.3 billion is spent on all forms of advertising and marketing every year.

We know that 4% is remembered positively, 7% is remembered negatively, and 89% isn’t noticed or remembered.

So that’s roughly £17 billion of advertising that fits Bill Bernbach’s definition of ‘academic’.

Advertising that might as well not have run.

Advertising as a sub-set of marketing.

The dictionary defines the word academic as “Having no practical importance: not involving or relating to anything real or practical, only of theoretical interest”.

But advertising isn’t an academic subject.

It does have practical importance.

So it isn’t just a sub-set of marketing.

Advertising is actually the voice of marketing.

Adam Morgan talks about ‘in front of the curtain’ and ‘behind the curtain’.

In front of the curtain is what we want the audience to see.

Advertising is ‘in front of the curtain’.

Behind the curtain is what we don’t want the audience to see.

Marketing is ‘behind the curtain’

The audience isn’t supposed to notice marketing.

But if the audience doesn’t notice the advertising, what’s the point in doing it?

So advertising is not a sub-set of marketing.

Advertising is about amplification.

Making sure your message is part of the 4% that gets noticed and remembered.

Because, otherwise, however clever all that marketing thinking was, it will all be wasted.

“If no-one notices your advertising, everything else is academic.”

  • Irfan

    Dave, I always think advertising taught a sub-set of marketing is to get them get a general idea about how advertising works, but not to actually do the advertising. That’s for the agencies… Or am I missing someting?

  • Dave Trott

    If only that were true.
    In my experience, a little learning is a dangerous thing.
    The best clients are the ones who haven’t been taught anything about advertising and just react like ordinary punters.

  • Mark

    Interesting post.

    However, I reckon if the pricing & distribution, market research, brand planning, category management…etc aren’t right then the advertising becomes academic.

    Bit like Germany in the World Cup, for things to truly work, then every element of the team needs to perform. No good just having one superstar (E.G a great ad campaign) if the rest is going to fall short.

  • Irfan

    @ Mark: Nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising

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