Consumers see advertising and marketing as unbelievable and certainly undignified. Having worked around the world over many years you cannot help wondering if society is changing in ways that are more than economic. It would appear that advertising and marketing is losing its legitimacy .

The myopic search for profit and short term advantages has created a corporate oligarchy whose interests are largely inimical to the average consumer. Smoke and mirrors have, for too long, been a substitute for good old fashioned marketing.
All the while the mythology of marketing and advertising, as institutions of enterprise, of meritocracy and opportunity, as somewhere “that didn’t work like anywhere else” is being compromised. Meanwhile we seem to be forgetting the convictions that made Marketing and Advertising great.

The rot began when we chose never to take heed of Professor Ehrenberg’s statements on advertising effectiveness! Because nothing has changed despite all the ballyhoo about Social Media, Facebook et al. Wherever ads appear, especially on Social Media, Ehrenberg’s resolute focus on the facts – what data actually tells us – led him to challenge many a marketing bandwagon such as ‘loyalty’. You may wish to improve the brand’s performance by ‘improving customer retention’, he observed, but without a higher market penetration it just won’t happen. His work on advertising effectiveness was equally challenging. He argued convincingly that there was no evidence that advertising persuades anybody to do anything; advertising can only ever be a ‘weak’ force that improves brand recognition and/or jogs consumers’ memories.

Ehrenberg’s uncompromising insistence on staying only with the facts is probably why his work was so studiously ignored by so many sections of the marketing community.
The consequences of this has been far more lasting than any recession could ever be.

Be brutally honest, do you have any idea how advertising works? How advertising got itself into its present mess. No? Perhaps you console yourself with the thought that it doesn’t matter that you don’t have a clue because there are plenty of smart marketing people out there who do. Well, here’s the tricky part. Yes, those smart marketing people do indeed have a shrewd prescription on how to steer the world out of marketing chaos. The bad news is, they’re not all the same prescription. In fact they are different prescriptions. Very different.

We snigger at fortune-tellers yet continue to take seriously the word of advertising and marketing people, professions definable as “people who have found a way to retain professorial tenure even when their predictions turn out to be entirely wrong”.
Read the rival pronouncements of the world’s top advertising people and you soon find yourself agreeing that their guess is as good as anybody else’s. Because in Marketing and advertising nobody knows anything!
Even more disturbing, the arguments about Social Media and how to fix advertising that we hear today are but a queasy echo of those we heard years ago regarding the introduction of Commercial TV...and didn’t that work out well?
Similar arguments about involvement, The Internet, Social Media et al are today being regurgitated over the current crisis. So what should we be doing? I really don’t know except that we should really study the meaning of the word “communication” a little more urgently. My only excuse is that the people we rely on to know don’t have a common view either.
The rarest phrase in the English language is: “Marketing people agree that...”

Author's Bio: 

Paul Ashby developed interactive communication some twenty years ago and guarantees that just one exposure to an interactive programme in whatever medium(s) is substantially more effective than and other form of marketing communication. You can contact Paul on (44) 01934-620047 or at Visit