The Library: Where Did It All Go Wrong?

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This week Matt reviews Eaon Pritchard’s new book, Where Did It All Go Wrong? Adventures At The Dunning-Kruger Peak Of Advertising.

In Eaon Pritchard’s new book on the state of advertising, he’s not afraid to pull any punches when he proclaims that:  

“We’ve now ‘successfully’ produced a generation of advertising professionals who have never even known what advertising is for and how it works.”

As Pritchard notes, it’s an industry where most people who work in it, “seem to hate their jobs and hate the idea that they are selling brands, products and services rather than the more noble aim of solving society’s problems.”

A quick look at some of the finalists at Cannes Lions this year and it’s hard to disagree. 

In some ways Where Did It All Go Wrong? is all over the place. That’s less of a reflection on Pritchard’s writing and more an accurate depiction of the advertising world today; an industry that loves to jump onto the latest trends and technology aka ‘game-changing revolutions’. 

This obsession with the new creates a honeymoon-period where a different lens is applied. And, whilst the industry is often incredibly fast at adopting change, it can be incredibly slow at reacting as the evidence of their ineffectiveness is revealed. Adtech and influencers being two current examples. 

Whilst it would be understandable if Pritchard spent the entire book tearing apart the industry he instead covers a broad range of areas to build a better understanding of how advertising really works. The book is full of fascinating insights such as the idea that, to be more effective, brand objectives should be closely aligned to evolutionary biology:

“In 1973 the Russian biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky famously wrote ‘Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution’. It could also be noted that nothing in brand behaviour makes sense except in the light of evolution. Brands’ like organisms, have two principle concerns. Survival and reproduction. Survival should be a self-evident notion, just staying in business. For reproduction we could think about the number of category entry points in which the brand is salient and perhaps breadth of distribution as measures of fitness.”

When it comes to the evolution of the advertising industry Pritchard provides another pragmatic solution:

“What if the change the industry really needs is to refocus itself towards producing the kind of brilliant, insightful, creative advertising that will get noticed and remembered by consumers. We’ve more ability to screen out crap than ever before, so should the solution be better ways to do advertising not worse?”

After finishing the book I attended Pritchard’s talk at the Mumbrella360 conference last week.

Reflecting on the industry he said, “The problem with advertising is we’ve forgotten why we’re here.’ 

Afterwards, as I walked through the foyer and past the room named ‘Data Stage’ I nodded my head and thought to myself, “Yep, he sure got that right.”

Matt Arbon