From the pulpit

The Editor’s introduction

Issue 51 | June 2019

In May, I was invited to A°rhus by Anders Tranæs, CEO of successful Danish agency Envision, to give a talk at a small conference he had organised as part of the Internet Week Denmark festival.

I chose as my sermon, 'Permission Denied'.

Over 20 years ago, Seth Godin wrote 'Permission Marketing'. He anticipated a time in which digital media would stimulate real conversations between people and brands. Advertising would be trusted advice targeted at people who would welcome it.

Well, if people didn't like ads back then, they absolutely hate them now.

Various scandals and scares haven't helped. Cambridge Analytica, for instance.

The press, keen to put the boot in on the digital companies that have done so much damage to their own businesses, suggested that the voters of America were duped. If it hadn't been for the bad men of advertising, Trump would never have been elected.

At the same time, YouTube has been regularly attacked for running respectable clients' ads on thoroughly disrespectable videos.

Brands, in effect, were monetising terrorists and white- supremacist racists.

No-one can put a figure on it, but it seems likely that around one billion ad-blockers have been installed on devices of one sort or another.

It has been described as the single largest protest movement in history.

Advertising as a profession has never been so reviled.

In November 2018 in the UK, an Ipsos MORI poll placed advertising executives below politicians. This at a time when, thanks to Brexit, politicians have never been so despised for their lack of integrity.

One of advertising's big problems is advertisements.

For the most part, they are dull, charmless and unedifying.

Especially in online display, where average clickthrough rates are as low as 0.1%.

Remarketing makes people even angrier.

You buy an item online and then get chased around the internet by the advertiser trying to sell you the thing again.

You know you're being targeted. You know your data is in play. And it makes you very, very cross.

Permission denied.

If you can block it, zap it or even piss on it, you will. And that is precisely why Directory exists.

Because, under certain conditions, people will give brands permission to approach. And, if the mood takes them, they may even choose to engage.


And this is a big BUT.

Brands have to be nicer to people. They have to have a sense of fun as well as a sense of purpose. They need to earn attention and when they have it, be respectful of the people whose lives they have barged into.

At its very simplest, brands have to learn to give and not simply to take, offering experiences that are valuable, likable and shareable.

Their advertising can do more than inform. It can be the engine that drives innovation, it can create news, it can enrich culture.

That's the sort of work we hope to attract to Directory each quarter.

And Issue 51 does not disappoint.

We have the New York Times defending 'The Truth'.

We have Vogue tackling ageism.

We have Volvo making all its crash data openly available. We have ElaN trying to correct unconscious bias.

Good stuff, I hope you agree.

I wound up in A°rhus by saying, if you love advertising you'll love Directory. Please sign up to the magazine that is trying to save advertising from itself.

As yet, no new subscribers have come forward. Ah well, we live in hope.

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