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In the Business of Influence
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Being an advertising and marketing professional comes with weighty responsibility. Not only are we supposed to link businesses with consumers whose lives can benefit from patronizing the brand we serve, but we must influence society about things it may or may not be thinking about.

"The sole purpose of business is service. The sole purpose of advertising is explaining the service which business renders."
—Leo Burnett*

Business is supposed to make life easier; more convenient. We as advertising and marketing professionals are then charged to inform, remind, and persuade consumers that their lives are better off with whatever product or service we represent. It is not a difficult concept, yet our colleagues have practiced the profession in a way that has left a distorted and gross taste in the mouths of consumers.

"We want consumers to say 'That's a hell of a product' instead of, 'That's a hell of an ad.' "
—Leo Burnett

In order to influence, we have to focus our advertising on the good or service, and the problem that our good or service solves. Telling the story in a creative fashion gets the attention; the fact that the good or service solves the problem is the actual selling point. But there is a growing moan in society that advertising and businesses are more focused on the story than trying to solve the problem. Indeed, Yahoo and Wired ran a story about Super Bowl ads that may be too creative for their own good, because those advertisers haven't seen significant sales increases, and brand recall amongst consumers is lower than normal ads.

Would you pay $4 million to not be remembered? 

It's an interesting issue. Why, in an industry built on influence, are we having difficulty influencing?

Perhaps our brands and agencies are missing the point. Perhaps we should be more honest to brands, telling them money should be spent on improving products and researching actual problems, than pushing people to buy, buy, and buy. Perhaps we should dial down the creative story notch, and turn on the critical thinker switch. This is a consumption society; people will buy things no one should worry about that. We just need to pick better methods of telling the narrative.

 "If you can't turn yourself into your customer, you probably shouldn't be in the ad writing business at all."
—Leo Burnett

*All quotes of Leo Burnett are from BrainyQuote.com

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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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