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What is Advertising Telling the Public?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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We would liken advertising to the barometer for the economic environment. What we see on TV, mobile, and the several other screens can show the hand that businesses are trying to play. For example, during the height of the Great Recession, we saw messages focusing around stability, foundational wisdom, and assurances that these firms were going to stick around. We also saw massive sales and discounts. It only makes sense; during a time where unemployment is high and consumer confidence is in the dumps, businesses had to give consumers solid reasons to open wallets and purses to buy.

Business will finally resume its natural place in advertising now that the election is over, with a silver lining. The adspend this past election was absurd, totaling several billion dollars; and the most amount spent on political advertising in our lifetime. It is not hard to see why media buying agencies and networks are anxious to see if this proves to be an indicator of things to come.

Now, as the economy is starting to recover, and we're officially post-election, what kind of messages are we beginning to see? What is the overall sentiment that businesses are attempting to show?

The results are mixed.

Sure, as of right now, the consumer confidence index is higher than it has been since the beginning of the recession. And luxury spending, according to Unity Marketing, is up nearly 26% and the Luxury Market Index is at its highest point since the index began in 2004.

But the messages have not changed too drastically. We are still seeing ads focusing on security versus opportunity; keeping what you have versus looking for something new. There is still the underlying message of savings and discounts rather than value and quality.

We are still cheapening our goods and services.

The activity is good, for some. But if we want our brands to grow, and if we want the consumer to perceive more value than price, we need to repackage our messages. Yes, the economy is not great, but it is improving. Show the consumer ways they can improve their livelihoods. Position your brand and business in a way where you are not competing on sales and discounts. Develop a story about your brand and your consumer growing together out of this mess of an economy. 

Advertising can help boost consumer confidence. But we must be confident enough to try it.

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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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