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Pete Field’s latest paper, released before the pandemic (remember when we could do things like go to places, meet colleagues? Me neither!), reveals there is a crisis in creative effectiveness that is fuelled by short-term advertising. This desire for short-termism is an approach which seeks to trade in brand value for faster sales, but at the expense of long-term brand equity and market share. Marketers love to deride most things as ‘dead’, planning is dead (it’s not!) TV is dead, print is dead, advertising is dead but as Prof Mark Ritson points out, often in strong terms, this is utterly false.

There is however a driving thought behind these statements and it is ‘digital’ and ‘short-termism’. Peter makes a detailed argument that in fact, creativity within advertising is on the way out which has made the work overall year-on-year less effective. This effect has also been driven by the overuse of channels which only serve the needs of the short-term focused marketer.

There is a role in the marketing mix for all channels provided they support the strategy and audience segmentation requirements of the brief. Channels which, when used correctly to gain share of voice, service both brand and tactical campaigns – see our work for the University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education for how we balanced these forces. However, due to many factors, there is an over-weighting of digital tactics to which, throughout the last 10 years, significant marketing budgets have been allocated to. This focus has driven creative brand advertising to the periphery.

That’s all fine if the results are supported by robust data and produce effective campaigns. But it is very rare that brands are built with long-term value purely on digital tactics: even Facebook (when it wanted to get brand messages out about caring for privacy of users – joke of the year no doubt!) activated on TV, Out of Home and in the press – because reach matters when you absolutely need to get your message out. The UK government wrote to every home in the UK to inform about the first lockdown, yes there was a huge spend on digital focusing on reminders, but the core communication was a letter in the post which signalled the importance of the communication to the recipient.

This over focus and reliance on digital has pulled all areas of marketing into the realm of performance, leaving traditional brand advertising lagging behind, which is the crisis Peter reports on.

So, what can be done to bring back ‘the long idea’ as Grey London calls it? A notion that advertising is actually about obtaining share of thought and nudging audiences so that when it comes time to make a purchase it is your brand they choose. Now is the time to consider championing creativity and choosing to allocate marketing budgets with a view to building long-term brands, across a variety of channels, whilst supporting and underpinning the strategy with short-term activation-based marketing.