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The Real Point of Advertising
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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"Advertising says to people, 'Here's what we've got. Here's what it will do for you. Here's how to get it.'"
-Leo Burnett

Based on the articles, "thought pieces," and reports that have recently come out about advertising, it is clear that many people have either a negative view of advertising or a totally misguided view about the practice.

Let's try to break it down so people stop spreading false notions about it.

We linked to a simple article that appeared on a usually reputable site that talked about what advertising is meant to do. The writers said that it is meant to "create buzz and generate sales." Note, too, that these writers are from a global business consulting firm and not from the advertising industry. They noted that "everyone" is fawning over the Super Bowl and Facebook and how those are the best channels for advertising and "buzz" and reported on how a couple of major companies are rejecting that notion.

First off, that "notion" was accepted by very few companies in the first place.

The quote that opened this article, made by Leo Burnett, is one of the most simple explanations of advertising. And note, again, that it deals nothing with "generating sales" or "buzz." That business jargon comes from business people, not advertising people, who are trying to explain advertising.

Advertising is meant to help people identify a want or a need and let people know that there is a product or service out there that can help them fulfill it. It's a creative process that packages messages in creative ways (to "cut through the clutter") and connect with people who are looking for answers. Advertising can either show people what the answer is or show them what their question is, and provide the answer as well.

It is incredibly frustrating to see those who have no real understanding of AdLand be raised up as subject-matter experts and proceed to portray the subject in a poor light. Of course advertising isn't going to work in the way that you portray it, because that is not the way it is meant to be used. 

It is like asking a football coach to prepare a basketball team. Just because he's a coach doesn't mean his tactics are going to work anywhere you put him.

Advertising can create demand and be a fantastic investment for a brand, but it has to be implemented in the way it is designed to be. 


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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