Consumers Think Advertising Can Change the World. Can the Industry Rise to the Challenge?

4A’s kicks-off contest to find best creative idea to market the industry to a broader audience

New Orleans, LA – March 11, 2013 – The 4A’s, partnering with IPG’s McCann Truth Central and Momentum, today released, “The Truth About Advertising,” that revealed an impressive 69 percent of consumers think advertising can change the world for the better yet 70 percent of the industry believes the best days of advertising are in the past.

A key finding of the study is that 79 percent of people who work in advertising agree that ‘we’re good at selling our client’s businesses but not our own.’

“Insularity is our Achilles heel,” said 4A’s President and CEO Nancy Hill. “We forget how inwardly focused we are and that most people have no idea what advertising is all about. In truth, as an industry we spend too much time talking to ourselves as agencies struggle to project their purpose to the outside world.”

Chris Weil, global CEO of IPG’s Momentum and 4A’s Chairman added, “The study revealed that 87 percent of consumers believe that if people understood the real value advertising brings to the economy it would change people’s perceptions for the better and attract a new generation of talent to our industry.”

Therefore, the 4A’s is initiating a contest to find the best creative idea to market the industry to a broader audience. Mandatories: Must be an idea that can live on any channel and run in any market. All submissions must be in a 5 minute video format and sent to [email protected] by May 15. The winner will be announced at the Cannes Lions Festival in June. The 4A’s will underwrite the production of all materials that will be provided to members in a toolkit.

Here is The Brief:

  • Problem: The advertising industry is too insular and this affects how its members view themselves, how the world views the industry and its ability to attract new talent.
  • Target Audience: The industry operates in a B2B model (i.e., trying to attract clients and impress other members of the industry) therefore it needs to incorporate a B2C model to attract new talent.
  • What Should People Think: Advertising is the #1 place to be creative and creates 15 percent of the nation’s jobs.
  • Tone: Honest, inclusive and proud.

The findings of “The Truth About Advertising” study include:

The Sad Man in the Mirror
The industry suffers from something akin to a persecution complex the study said. When asked how people perceived their profession, advertising professionals used words like “charlatans, manipulators, greedy and dishonest.”

Data from the study indicated that people in advertising have negative feelings about aspects of their profession. For example:

  • 70 percent think the best days of advertising are in the past
  • 80 percent think the industry is a sink or swim environment
  • 56 percent think people in advertising secretly wish they were doing something more creative
  • 39 percent think that people in advertising are more likely to suffer from anxiety/depression

America on Advertising
However when consumers were asked about their views of advertising a far more positive picture emerges. In contrast, they used words like “creative, imaginative, observant, vivacious, talkative and persuasive” to describe people who worked in advertising. In addition:

  • 71 percent said they feel positive about advertising as a profession
  • 67 percent said they feel positive about the advertising they see around them
  • 39 percent of consumers said they love advertising
  • 57 percent say advertising gives them something to talk about

Although in the context of other professions, advertising doesn’t fare as well. “Entrepreneur” came in as number one according to the study’s ranking of most favored professions, followed by photographer, doctor, web developer, management consultant, journalist and attorney. Advertising ranked eighth higher than banker, accountant, sales person and politician.

Sadly, when asked to choose from a list of twelve professions only 7 percent of consumers would choose to have sex with a person in advertising or like to sit next to an advertising executive at a dinner party.

So while people feel positive about advertising in isolation when looked at in a broader context advertising becomes less desirable. The majority of industry professionals (57 percent) believe the industry has a problem attracting and retaining talent.

Pride & Persecution
When consumers were asked whether advertising makes the world better or worse, 72 percent said that advertising makes it better.

But with this opportunity comes added responsibility:

  • 73 percent have higher expectations of brands
  • 66 percent have higher expectations of advertising these days
  • 87 percent of consumers think brands should stand up for what they believe in
  • 68 percent agree the brands they buy say something about them

Laura Simpson, Global Director, McCann Truth Central who led the study concluded, “Advertising has a beneficial impact on the economy and consumers recognize that it makes their lives better in many ways, from keeping them informed to supporting the ‘free’ content they consume. We need to have greater faith in the power of our industry.”

Methodology for The Truth About Advertising U.S. Research Study
The Truth About Advertising is a new online research study based on a quantitative survey of 1,000 consumers and nearly 500 advertising agency employees across the U.S. and video interviews with industry experts and consumers. The data for the 1,000 person quantitative survey was collected by Toluna on behalf of McCann Truth Central and was representative in terms of age, gender and ethnicity of consumers in the U.S. McCann was responsible for survey design and data analysis. Toluna is one of the world’s leading online panel and survey-technology providers and provides a comprehensive proven, scalable solution that enables companies to answer questions of a target audience quickly and efficiently.

The advertising agency employee survey was sent to the 4As membership database and IPG companies in the U.S. with requests to share with non-network advertising colleagues. Advertising professionals in the video interviews were representative in terms of age, experience, gender, ethnicity and departmental expertise. Agencies that participated in the interviews include McKinney, TBWA/Chiat Day, R/GA, Group M and McCann Worldgroup. Man on the Street interviewees were selected randomly on Madison Avenue.

Primary Contact Name: Portia Badham
Primary Contact Position: SVP, Marketing & Communications
Primary Contact Organization: 4A’s
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