August 24, 2015

Advertising Is Becoming Fast Food.

In the beginning, there was the hamburger.

Then God created McDonald's. And the people said, "this is good."

They liked the idea of paying 15¢ for a burger.

But over time, as the fast food hamburger became the norm, the quality of the average hamburger dropped dramatically. It was not economically feasible to offer both a high quality hamburger and a very low price.

We are experiencing the same thing in advertising.

Advertising used to be expensive. Magazines, newspapers, outdoor, TV and radio used to charge advertisers a lot of money for the privilege of annoying their audiences. Now there is an alternative.

The web has made advertising cheap. You can buy ads on websites, on Facebook, on Twitter for fractions of pennies. Okay, maybe handfuls of pennies. But the point is, there is now a low-price alternative to traditional media.

This has not had a positive effect on the quality of advertising.

Agencies once competed for high-priced, talented people to meet the expectations of clients who were spending a lot of money for media. Clients spending fractions of pennies for media don't seem to have the same expectations.

Of course, there has always been a lot of crappy advertising, but I don't think any serious student of advertising would argue with the assertion that the level of creativity in advertising has taken a deep dive in recent years.

The economics of inexpensive online advertising has meant that only a foolish agency would hire high-priced, talented people to write and design banner ads, website copy, and tweets.

As agency work became more trivial, agency talent became more inconsequential.

So agencies started hiring not-so-high-priced, not-so-talented people to do this stuff. And, in the fullness of time, it was inevitable that these people would rise in the ranks in agencies. Those who were hired to write tweets and banners are now writing big brand campaigns.

Happily, we still have some very talented people working in some excellent agencies. But they are the exceptions. For the most part, our industry has seriously diminished its talent pool and our creative work is showing the stress.

Advertising is becoming fast food.

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