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Leslie Budd on... advertising

Updated Friday, 5th March 2010

Leslie Budd explores the confusion between power and speed of advertising in the business world

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In the early 1960s Madison Avenue in New York was the destination for any ambitious young person. It was the home of the hidden persuaders, as Vance Packard called the masters of the advertising universe, and where the power or supposed power of this global industry was manifested.

Do we make too much of the power of advertising? The psychology of advertising is complex and the evidence for its power variable, whereas if we look at economics we find some evidence of power. Advertising acts as a barrier to entry to new competitors to a market through established brands generating repeat messages across a larger range of output thereby gaining economies of scale.

But in a visual culture do we confuse the speed of advertising messages for its power? If you are a master or mistress of the corporate universe you are supposedly living in a fast lane, constantly dipping in and out of the global information super highway. Again, is this just hype, another example of the old adage of more haste, less speed?

In the film Up In The Air the central character flies around the United States making people redundant. His objective is to join the ten million Air Mile club, but the speed of his goal is slowed when a young upstart proposes to make people redundant remotely. The film seems to be emblematic of charismatic business leaders running faster and faster after some set goal.

Well, it seems to me that the bottom line is that business is more complex and comprehensive than the individuals that head them. There may be a tendency to go for the power and speed of a Usain Bolt sprint but business is often a marathon, and perhaps it should just be a fun run.

That’s my view, join the debate with the Open University.





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