Scientists recently discovered a process in the body's immune system called "anergy." It has commonly been believed that, when an invading virus attacks the body, white blood cells race to the point of invasion, surrounding and destroying the invading virus. It is now known that the while blood cells do charge to the point of incursion but they do not immediately attack. Instead, they wait "passively on the sidelines" in the "anergic state," depending upon a second signal from the brain to confirm the virus and authorize the white blood cells to attack.
In the advertising business, we are settled in the anergic state. We know there are problems. There is a virus attacking the health of the advertising system. But efforts to respond have been passive at best. The industry is waiting for a signal to take action. But what actions? And who is responsible for sending the signal? Becoming overly dependent upon research for addressing issues of advertising effectiveness is analogous to assigning the white blood cells the job of the brain. We stand in danger, in the advertising business, of becoming so reliant on information and its methodological purity that we lose our ability to think intelligently and logically about that information.
Too many executives wait passively on the sidelines accepting business as usual as a virus eats away at the health of their business. For the advertising industry to renew its vitality and dominant role in the marketing process, it must refocus all its energies on improving measures of effectiveness and centralizing all the knowledge resources available to an advertiser under a single management umbrella charged with the responsibility for bringing logical cohesion and direction to the marketer's information resources.
Another extraordinary discovery in the medical community is that a gene called p53 is a cell's primary defensive weapon against the malignant growth of cancerous cells that can grow without check, and move from one organ to another until the health of the organism is destroyed. The p53 gene can sense the first signs of damage to chromosomes and prevent a cell from doing anything further until DNA enzymes can act and repair the damage.
The advertising industry requires its own version of the p53 gene – a police agent who has a view of a marketer's total strategy and who can recognize and act to stop any destructive elements that are negatively affecting the success of that strategy and the health of the marketer.
Companies should require Knowledge Resources managers as there own p53 gene, reflecting the contemporary role of those individuals charged with responsibility for developing research, interpreting research, defining its uses, and integrating research into the advertising and marketing process without doing harm to the total organism. Like the general medical practitioner, an advertising agency Knowledge Resources Manager knows the client intimately, can be thoroughly involved in every step of the marketing, creative and media process, and can assess all the various information streams and their relevance to the clients' objectives. The distinction must be made between research – which provides information – and knowledge, which is the master – served by research. What our industry needs are more Knowledge Resources managers. The Knowledge Resources Manager will provide a valuable p53 gene for marketers and help break the industry out of its anergic state.