Now, now, now what's going on? I have just hotfooted it back from a visit to Pompeii (although clearly not as hot footed as the evacuees of 79AD) only to find AdLand getting hot and bothered about whether what they do actually matters.
It's all sparked off, apparently, by an article in the splendid http://www.moreaboutadvertising.com/. It's the "alternative voice of advertising, marketing and media"; so one might expect a little fire and brimstone every now and then. Hot on its trail is a fulmination from AdLand's business supremo Sir Martin Sorrell who says that advertisers should slash print newspaper and magazine budgets, because of the reduced time consumers spend reading them. This is surely the sort of thing that will get all sorts of business folk sitting up, taking notice and re-evaluating what bang they're getting for their buck.
My hunch is that the grumbling power of the Internet, as always, is forcing things to a head. If you believe the "Netterati" (not the Vampires from Breaking Dawn, the smart digital dudes from Silicon Valley, Alley, Roundabout and Road) we will conduct all our lives solely from the confines of our smartphones and tablets and Mad Men advertising will eventually cede completely to Pad Men advertising.
I can see an economic argument when it's hitting me in the face. Digital Ads are cheaper to make and place and should return a healthy profit to those manufacturing them. So far so good. And they mimic, like a close cousin, old-fashioned 1970's Direct Response Advertising, but they are much better targeted and placed. I'm writing a new book at the moment, and while sourcing train times found my book was being advertised to me by Amazon as I debated the 10.25 or the 10.55. I haven't even finished writing it yet. Spare me. And I don't know about you, but my facebook page is now getting so chock full of "personalized" ads it's depressing me. Am I really that old and incontinent?
Advertising literally means "turning towards". It is the art of turning people in a busy market place towards a product or service. (Think of the cheeky, chirpy butcher selling you sausages and his armoury of nifty, naughty sales chat).
Traditionally all sorts of techniques have been used to "turn people towards" something, including repetition, humour, wit, craft and beauty.
My worry about bending to the economics of the net so easily is that I fear the plethora of geo-targeted "adlets" (well, they're all tiny ads in tiny spaces aren't they?) will fail to deliver the stand-out punch TV and Print used to.
I'm not suggesting a return to "the good old days". Far from it. I embrace all the new media with a real passion. Always have.
But what I am suggesting is that simply replacing analogue advertising with digital advertising and expecting the same result is foolhardy.
Advertising does matter. It provides choice. Good advertising can be an opportunity for a brand to add value to people's lives.
It's time to be inventive and think how a brand can live in a positive, engaging way beyond its digital dimensions.
Remember Adland, the net is not the only agora in town.