What Is Advertising?
A bronze statue of a girl standing defiantly across from the iconic Wall Street charging bull. A two hour-event in the Steve Jobs Theater in front of an ecstatic crowd (making so much noise that could put some rock concerts to shame), and streamed by millions all over the world. Are these two examples considered advertising activities?
The American Marketing Association defines advertising as any paid form of non-personal presentation and promotion of ideas, goods and services by an identified sponsor. If you follow this definition, then these two examples will not count as advertising activities.
However, these examples need to fall under the umbrella of advertising. While Apple makes use of paid media, Tim Cook earns a bigger part of his compensation not by briefing ad agencies, but during a single event in September. At this event, millions all over the globe tune in to watch the longest commercial in the world.
We need a new definition of advertising that can encompass such activities. Being a scientist by training, I know that demarcation (i.e., setting boundaries) is important. The new a broader definition of advertising needs to be precise. It needs to make clear what activities it will include and what activities it will exclude.
Building on the work of Les Binet and Peter Field (one of the most fundamental works for the marketing discipline, that I will cover here in the future), I want to propose a new definition of advertising focusing on its two-pronged goals – short-term response activity and long-term brand-building. Accordingly:
Advertising is any marketing activity that results in either the building of long-term brand equity or in short-term activation (a.k.a. sales).
All marketing activities necessitate a trade-off between these two goals. But more on this in another article. Both PR and certain events represent advertising activities.
CEO branding (so underutilized, but gaining in significance) belongs to advertising too, as it instills brand codes in the mind of the consumer. In 2019, Volkswagen Group produced 11,0 Million cars, and Toyota – 10,7 Million cars. In that same year, an American electric vehicle company based in Palo Alto produced 0,4 Million cars. How many of you can tell me who the CEOs of Volkswagen and Toyota are? How many of you can guess the CEO of this small unnamed American car company that supposedly doesn't do advertising?
Advertising = Instilling codes + Asking for money