Short-termism is a disease poisoning the advertising industry

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 9 September 2016
Rosie Baker AdNews editor

A plague of ad blocking and a disease of short termism are spreading through the world of advertising. A damning assessment of the lay of the and from Peter Field, a preeminent voice on effectiveness in advertising, speaking at the Effie Awards last night in Sydney. His point couldn’t have been proved any more clearly than in the long-term effectiveness category, where there were no prizes handed out.

In 2016, just like in 2013 there were no Effies given for long-term effectiveness. Not one campaign has demonstrated to the judges it deserves recognition for providing the client with long-term effectiveness.

That is truly shameful.

Three years ago, I had just moved to Australia from the UK. I went to the Effie Awards as a guest of the Comms Council and it was an awesome introduction to the work and the agencies in this market. But what concerned me then, still concerns me now.

This column that I wrote three years ago almost to the day, and just a month after I arrived in Australia is every bit as relevant today as it was then.

It’s never a good look to quote yourself, but I’m going to do it anyway. Back then I said: “If you’re doing, or commissioning, great work but it's not having an impact on your business over the long-term – what's the point? … Maybe its symptomatic of the rapid pace of change across all industries, and the pressure to deliver instant results means that people are hobbled in their ability to look long term: it's difficult to look long term when the axe falls after two poor quarters. But by not looking longer term, the industry is doing itself a disservice and it is a hard cycle to break.

Clearly that cycle still hasn’t been broken. It would be tragic – and embarrassing – if in three years there are still no winners in the long-term effectiveness category.

It’s not all bad though. There’s a lot to celebrate across the Australian creative industry. The Monkeys appear to be a shining light of creativity, culture and commerce. The work they make actually works, if being awarded four of the six Gold Effies handed out last night means anything.

BMF, another independent, went home with an armful of awards. Affinity took home five, including a Gold Effie. JWT did well, Leos got a couple, as did Whybin\TBWA and Clemenger Melbourne.

Great work was on show last night at the Effies – but what also showed was the absence of many agencies which should have been present as nominees, bronze, silver and gold winners.

There are pockets of excellence but I want to see a glut. I want Effie winning, big, bold creative everywhere. I don’t want to have to wrack my brain at the end of the year when AdNews compiles its top 10 ads of the year – I want to be beating the contenders off with a stick.

Field is a big fan of big ideas and creative brand building. He paid compliment to Australian advertising, saying that he sees a “ballsiness and chutzpah” that isn’t found back in the UK, paying particular notice to the financial sector in Australia, which he says his making creative work that would never come from a bank in the UK. But is there enough of that kind of work turning the dial for Australian businesses?

It’s not that there is a problem with the creativity or strategy on the table. This was shown only too clearly with shortlists of 11 and 13 entries in the in the strategic thinking and the original thinking categories. That shows that the strength of ideas and thinking is running high - but it has to become work that works.

Earlier this week when I sat down with Field we discussed exactly what it means to make work that is effective and why the industry has slipped into this dangerously short-term approach.

The problem goes right back to the objectives and the KPI’s being set by the business right from the top. If those KPI’s and measurement are based on quarterly sales targets or short-term peaks in sales – nothing good will come of it over the long term.

Last night Field said: “We’ve got a plague of adblocking going on ad it’s a shame on us all. We should never have allowed it to get this far and I blame it on the nerds, and those who are driven through pure numbers and digital thinking. We’ve got to turn the tide on this for the sake of advertising.”

“What the world of marketing and advertising needs now more than anything else is the kind of advertising that consumers will not want to block or avoid. There is a disease spreading through the world of advertising and it’s running out of control. It’s called short-termism. It is that entirely deceptive and fallacious belief that living by the quarter, or the minute or the day is somehow clever. It’s rubbish, its absolute nonsense, I know from all the data that the kind of marketing and campaigns that emerge from that short-termist world view are not the kinds of campaigns that can successfully drive the year on year growth that businesses desperately need,” said Field las night.

There was actual whooping in the room when Field laid into SEO and pay per click and called for an end to the diversion of marketing dollars into short term sales activations.

“Correct me if I’m wrong but when did pay per click ever build a brand. If we want to build brands we have to engage consumers and make them want our brands. Profitable businesses are built on brands. I’m not arguing for the abandonment of short term tactics, but I’m arguing for balance between what we do for the long term – the magic of ideas and creative brand building, and what we do in the short term.

“It's gone too far. The pendulum has swung too far. All the data I look at suggests we are spending far too much on short term sales activation. We are in a runaway short-termist situation and we’ve got to pull that back. When I hear endless comments from blue chip marketing organisations bemoaning the lack of growth they can drive, well, if you’re going to put all your budget into short term sales activation, of course your business strategy will come undone. You’ve got to get back to the business of investing in brands.”

“I’m urging for a fightback against the endless diversion of marketing money into short term sales tactics. Marketing is not about timely and relevant offers – what a horrible expression we hear so much from the digital world. Marketing is about making consumers want to buy our brands to such an extent that we don’t have to discount them.”

He makes a powerful point. Field also spoke at the Agency Symposium earlier this week and at a number of CommsCouncil events, so hopefully his message gets through ad I don’t have to dredge this column up again in three years’ time.

comments powered by Disqus