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Creating Advocates for Advertising
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Overall, advertising has had an uphill battle to maintain a positive reputation, inside and outside the industry. Outside, we have anti-advertising groups and consumer advocacy groups calling for the banning of advertising, and inside the industry we have professionals who think what they're doing adds no benefit to society, and are consistently cynical about themselves, colleagues, and our activities.

How we can create more advocates more advertising?

For some time now, "truth in advertising" and "goodvertising" have taken over as the savior tactics for this industry. Though we believe that we should have been doing those activities in the first place, we don't believe that honest creative and using advertising for good is going to create raving fans for the work we do. It will help, but more needs to be done.

But what? With the rise of the digital age, some of our colleagues are inclined to give the power of what advertising consumers see to the consumer; allowing them to take a certain ownership to what is communicated to them. We love that idea in theory, but it's awful in practice. Hulu does it; before the ad starts it states, "Choose how you would like to watch the video," and it has certain options for ads, and if you want to watch the whole thing or have regular commercial breaks. But if we want to portray a partnership, we have to go all-in. If we can instill a sort of "Endowment Effect," it could prove to be quite effective.

Example: the Hulu user must log in to watch Hulu videos. Then before any shows, the user must choose what ads or brands the user likes, uses, or would like to see. If Hulu shows the consumer an ad that the user didn't choose, Hulu should pay the consumer. If the consumer incorrectly marks an ad as spam or against their interest, the consumer must pay Hulu. Both parties get some skin in the game in order to create a worthwhile experience. Plus, brands will know that the ads they place reach a consumer that wants them, and Hulu can pull in more advertising dollars from brands that weren't aware of its Hulu following.

Another way could be for media companies (Cable, Newspaper, Radio) and social/digital groups to be transparent about their costs and show how advertising keeps the price low for the consumer. We believe that the consumer suffers from the "Price of Free" syndrome; they are totally oblivious to the cost of things they receive because they don't have to pay for it. But, if Google went out and said that without its AdWords platform, Gmail would cost $15.99/year, or the New York Times said that without its advertisers, the Gray Lady would be $25/issue, people would see advertising more as a partner for free information, instead of an Opportunist. 

Advocates can only be created once value is demonstrated.

As for inside the industry, how can we turn those frowns upside down? After thinking more about it, we actually do like the license idea. It will get people who care enough to do it, and weed out those who just "fell into" the practice, and create a barrier for those who think they can do it. We need to clean our house if we want people to like it, right?


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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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