The Word “Advertising” Is Under Attack

You know that old “Advertising is dead” meme? It’s baaaaaack.
Paul McEnany of Hee Haw Marketing typed up the following:

So maybe it’s time we just stop calling what we do advertising. What it is now is much too personal to be so shorted with that brand of commercial artistry. When before we were segmented and massified at the same time, today we are increasingly individualized, personalized, and magnified. 10 years ago I wasn’t much more than a 25-34 year-old male with a paycheck, but today, I stand before you proudly as me and only me.

The thought here is advertising doesn’t speak to an individual, and that’s what the entire business is about today. My counter is the best ads do indeed speak to an individual. They always have, from David Ogilvy’s Hathaway shirt man on down. However, I’m not opposed to redefining terms. A few months ago I thought ad agencies should stop calling themselves ad agencies and use the term “Media Lab” instead.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Ugh. Advertising is dead? That guys totally sucks! 🙂
    Alright, so using one example of good advertising doesn’t excuse the other 95% bad, no matter the decade. Of course we can find plenty of exceptions, but the rule remains the same.

  2. Just call it marketing, if terminology is important. The point is, if you’re trying to get someone to buy something – whether through a :30 spot or viral content or WOM a store on some island in Second Life, it’s what we’ve always done: try to sell someone something.
    Also…to think marketers knowing you as “only you” is a bit much. It’s just that marketers have far more ways to learn details about you and have far more “mail” routes they can use to send things back. Modern day direct mail.
    Honestly, I’m not sure I would call that progress from a quality-of-life point of view. To the average consumer, it’s simply more, unsolicited junk mail than ever, even if it is more targeted.