Australian media companies have joined forces to launch a far-reaching campaign to convince Australia’s c-suite of the effectiveness of advertising. 

The campaign, called Advertise or Die, is designed to combat a weak advertising market exacerbated by low consumer confidence and to give marketers the ammunition they need to win the budget argument in the boardroom. 

The key message of the campaign is that advertising is an investment proven to deliver long-term, top-line growth for businesses. Its aim is to remind CEOs and CFOs of the big picture and try to yank them away from a reliance on short term tactics to boost financial performance – like cutting ad spend and putting that cash straight to the bottom line. 

Brand budgets are under threat from the appeal of performance-based digital ads to drive sales, as well as advertisers investing in their own capabilities, such as building in-house skills or technology implementations of CRM or marketing suites which are often funded from above the line marketing budget. 

The campaign will be hard to miss it, going live on TV, digital, print, radio, and out of home assets from media owners including News Corp Australia, Nine, Nova, Ooh Media, Seven West Media, Southern Cross Austero, 10, ACE Radio, Australian Radio Network, Foxtel, Grant Broadcasting, and JCDecaux. 

The campaign is supported by the industry bodies Think TV, Outdoor Media Association, Commercial Radio Australia and News Media Works. The campaign has been developed in partnership with Publicis Group’s creative team at Saatchi and Saatchi. 

Michael Stephenson, chief sales officer at Nine, said the campaign stemmed from the conversations media owners were having in market or through industry bodies over their concerns about the impact of the broader economy on an already soft advertising market. 

He noted that while the broad economic indicators are all relatively stable, consumer confidence is at a five year low, interest rates are low but finance is hard to get access to.  

“As a result of those economic conditions, we clearly have noticed that advertisers across a whole range of categories are becoming more cautious in terms of what they’re doing with their advertising investment,” Stephenson said. 

Stephenson cautioned against the pulling advertising. “Whilst it might deliver savings at the bottom line in the short term, it has a significant and profound impact on brands and businesses in the long term.” 

According to Zenith, Australian ad spend is expected to grow by 2.1 per cent in 2019, and 1.1 per cent in 2020. 

Advertise or die creative

As well as the current economic conditions, the campaign is also railing against a more ingrained mindset in the Australian business community – short termism. 

Mark Ritson, who is the spokesperson for Advertise or Die, said there is evidence we are already in an advertising recession and there’s genuine concern that Australia’s business leaders will cut back ad spend even further in a tightening economic environment. 

“My big concern for next year as we go into 2020, is you’ll see more and more money in that short term ROI being retained. But where you’ll see most money being withdrawn, is what should be the 60 –  70 per cent that should be spent on long term brand building through advertising.” 

He said Australian businesses tend to see advertising as a cost or a tax, not an investment to drive growth.  

“We know that the short term-ism in Australian marketing is not just bad, it’s getting worse. And what that means is most Australian marketers – not all but most of them – are investing money where they can see an immediate return on that dollar investment. That’s a false economy.” 

Long term advertising helps build brand, generate demand and command a price premium when the tactical sales do come into play, Ritson said.

Ritson also cited research that “advertising is a positive force for the economy” and Deloitte estimates that every dollar spent on advertising is going to generate about $7 for the GDP. 

Speaking at an event hosted by Interbrand earlier this year the Russel Howcroft, chief creative officer at PwC, urged a room full of marketers to double their budgets to drive growth. 

“Every single one of you has got to find a way to double your goddamn budget. Because if you don’t if you’re not going to get the growth that you want,” he said. 

He argued that marketers’ budgets were cut during the GFC and hadn’t been restored a decade later.

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