How advertising distorts brand marketing

“Only when television managed to emancipate itself from the economic construct of advertising was there a real emancipation of story.”

So said David Simon, creator of the greatest piece of art that has ever aired on television, The Wire – speaking at the Edinburgh TV festival last month (about in an interview with Charlie Brooker.

Similarly, brands – companies, organisations, whatever – need to free themselves from advertising as the core of how they communicate, how they practise marketing.

So do agencies (in fact many of them are already).

Advertising, to most people, *is* marketing. Since the 1950s at least, the TV ad has been the hub, the centrepiece of how marketing gets done. It’s where the money is, where a lot of talent goes.

Anyway, I was thinking about this last week prepping for a presentation at NMALive called “Influencing the Influencers”.

The title set me of on three trains of thought:

  • 1. How advertising as an “economic construct” distorts marketing and therefore business more widely.
  • 2. We need for models of communication that target both traditional influencers (media, celebrities, experts) and “accidental influencers“.
  • 3. Networks are inherently unpredictable (because they complex adaptive systems) – we need to avoid illusions of being able to predict and control behaviours and focus on “How to be lucky” as brands.

Here’s the presentation…

How to Be Lucky (Influencing the Influencers presentation from NMALive Sep 09)

Back to advertising vs. marketing. Advertising, TV advertising, distorts marketing in the digital age in lots of ways. The business models and the economic imperative still pulls in disproportionate amounts of budget, talent and attention from brand owners and marketers generally.

Just as The Wire was the result of TV being set free as a medium from advertising-only business models, organisations will benefit from being set free from the distorting influence of the advertising only model.

Antony Mayfield
I'm Antony Mayfield - to find out more about me take a look at my LinkedIn profile (see the button on the home page). You can contact me by email at antony [dot] mayfield [at] gmail [dot] com. Google


  1. Advertising has shaped marketing by making The Proposition the holy grail of marketing strategy. That’s because you needed something with this level of focus to make a 30 second ad.

    They also allowed basically identical brands to chisel out some point of (spurious) differentiation which they could then dramatise the life out of with 30 second theatre.

    Propositions don’t work in social media because you can’t have a conversation from them – 30 seconds and you are done (useful when 30 seconds was all you had, pretty hopeless when you have to sustain a conversation). That’s why the basis of marketing in social media has to be the story (easy to drive conversations from, hard to tell in 30 seconds).

  2. Pingback: Advertising – product advertising | Point Article News Feed
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  4. Thanks, Mark – I’d not read that post, but have read a lot of your work, which is brilliant. Should have, and will do, reference Herd und Herdmeister in future discussions around this topic, for sure…

  5. I think this is a great article along with the presentation, it reinforces the point that you are making with Social Media. How in affect anyone can be an influencer that is trusted within a group.

    I have been working on SEO projects but have started to look at the value of Social Media on a brand.

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