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Advertising: The Fifth Estate
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Throughout the civilized ages, our society has been divided by "estates," coming from the French "etats" signifying the gathering of the representatives "of the realm." Notably, there were only three recognized Estates. The First Estate was the clergy and church officials, the Second Estate was the government, and the Third Estate was the public and everyone else (several sources have the clergy and government switched, but the point is that they were recognized estates).

Then, as the press became bigger, and journalists and news media became watchdogs from the above mentioned estates, the news media became collectively grouped and known as the Fourth Estate. The Fourth Estate keeps a watchful eye on the other three, and holds each one accountable to the other.

At least, it used to. But that's another story.

It is long overdue to name AdLand as the Fifth Estate. The language of industry. The "life of trade," as former President Coolidge would say.

As technology continues to develop, as the business world continues to grow, innovate, and saturate, advertising is the avenue organizations take in order to get its messages out. It is advertising and advertising activities that inform or persuade consumers to buy, switch, try, and patron.

It is advertising as an estate that some people are against. The anti-advertising groups, the "consumer advocacy" groups, and the "unadvertisers" are making the point that advertising needs to be balanced out by their voices. That advertising is a force of our times to be reckoned with. It could be argued that this case is the Third Estate trying to balance the Fifth Estate.

Advertising exerts its power on the other Estates. Sure, if it weren't for advertising, the reach of the Fourth Estate (the press and Information Age) would have been hindered. The Fourth Estate has been, time and again, saved by advertising revenue. As long as consumers refuse to pay for access to certain information, services, and goods, the Fifth Estate will find a way to make its presence felt. Also, during this election season, can it not be said that the other Estates are using the power of advertising to make their power be known? The Second Estate is using the Fifth Estate to control the Third.

How's that for checks and balances?

It is time to finally give advertising the credit it's due. Advertising and AdLand is powerful, and without AdLand around, these other Estates could be having a tougher time.

So here's to advertising, the Fifth Estate.

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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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