From A(NA) to B(rexit)

By The Cog Blog Archives

This week I was looking forward to posting something uplifting and positive following the depressing litany of the agencies’ alleged misdemeanours as outlined in the ANA transparency report, and then along came a far more serious threat to the industry’s well-being, as the UK voted to leave the European Union. Regardless of what we may think of the political arguments aired during the campaign, the (at best) half-truths quoted by both sides during a highly acrimonious period of political activity, or even the appropriateness of a referendum as a way of deciding upon a complex and nuanced question, the facts are as they are and it’s worthwhile considering the implications for our little corner of industry.

Everybody hates uncertainty and for now at least uncertainty is what we’ve got. I can imagine budgets not being approved or at any rate delayed as advertisers work through the implications for them of an exit. This may take some time as no one seemed to have worked out what to do if the leave side won, so we have a vacuum, and a vacuum is not a good thing.

When there’s uncertainty the usual immediate reaction is to commit to what is seen as essential in the short-term on a “needs must” basis and to postpone any mid- to longer-term activities. Whatever the industry knows or thinks it knows about long-term brand building and the link through to profit, the reality is that we have collectively and over many years failed to make this message heard and understood in boardrooms. Consequently, expect to see a load of short-term promotional campaigns.

At the same time media choices tend to default towards the tried and trusted. In the last century’s frequent recessions, TV was generally fairly bomb-proof, whereas so-called secondary media forms tended to suffer. But of course now we have far more choice. Will the principle still be followed? I expect so; clients will stick to what they know works. “Safe and sure” will be the motto, not “try it and see.”

Expect longer-lead time media forms to suffer disproportionately. Clients will want to commit late, if they commit at all. It will be interesting to see if the tried and trusted (TV) wins over the short-term (digital and online).

The UK referendum vote came out as it did because large numbers of people who couldn’t be expected to know the exact detail of what it was they were buying bought it anyway. Clearly they felt that they were buying something transformative, something that would make a positive difference.

Those doing the selling had a lot to gain and made a lot of unsubstantiated promises, which now turn out to be, well, “unsubstantiated” would be the polite way of putting it.

Once those doing the buying find out they’ve been sold something on a falsehood they’re not going to be happy. They will no doubt turn on those who did the selling.

Remind you of anything?

Meantime, the next step will, I expect, see the pragmatists take over -- both on the huge Brexit issue and the more parochial ANA report fall-out. Deals will be done; things will improve; the fog will clear.

As a special treat you can hear two of the lesser-qualified (but vocal for all that) people on both the ANA and Brexit issues, namely myself and the AdContrarian himself, Bob Hoffman, discuss both topics here in an interview courtesy of asi.

We were chatting as part of asi’s podcast series; you can hear others in the series at that link, too. And if this interview makes you want to come and throw things at me, I will be chairing a session at asi’s TV and Radio Conference from November 2 to the 4 in beautiful Budapest.

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