Some big questions about advertising are perennial. What is it? How does it work? Does it stimulate innovation and competition or stifle them? Does it generate higher prices or lower ones? Does it grow markets or only brands?
These questions are among the most asked about advertising today – and their answers uncover some fundamental truths about its nature, role and effects. After uncovering and digitising the last publications to offer authoritative answers, Credos asked today’s big thinkers to update the works.
What is advertising? By Jeremy Bullmore
How does advertising work? By Paul Feldwick
Does advertising grow markets? By Bridget Angear
Based on Simon Broadbent’s Does advertising affect market size?
Does advertising increase consumer prices? By Laurence Green
Based on Keith Boyfield’s The effects of advertising on innovation, quality and consumer choice
Is advertising a barrier to market entry? By Rachel Kennedy
based on Stephen King’s Advertising as a barrier to market entry
What the work tells us
By Executive Editor, Laurence Green
For all the noise, the opinion and the changing fashions that swirl around the advertising industry, its most surefooted practitioners also have a keen sense of its fundamentals, and maybe even a little of its history.
This short series of advertising primers – each tasked with answering one of advertising’s ‘big questions’ – springs directly from the Advertising Association’s mission to encourage evidence-based debate and establish consensus – a tree planted unashamedly in the wind. This publication is an opportunity to revisit and revive some of the industry’s classic texts, not least Jeremy Bullmore’s ‘Advertising: What is it?’, Simon Broadbent et al’s ‘Does Advertising Affect Market Size?’ and Stephen King’s ‘Advertising as a Barrier to Market Entry’. Each one made a ground-breaking contribution to the conversation about advertising and each rewards intellectual scrutiny all these years later.
Advertising’s big questions, by their very nature, do not lend themselves to simplistic answers. The new papers confirm that looking for such answers is difficult. This shouldn’t surprise us, as Jeremy Bullmore reminds us advertising encompasses a whole range of activities and Paul Feldwick shows ads can work in many different ways. So when asking whether advertising affects price, market size, choice or market entry, we are bound to come up with a number of answers.But, if our authors’ provocations do no more than encourage informed debate and further, nuanced contemplation of those questions, then their work is done.
Recovering the original works
By Karen Fraser, Director, Credos
In the 1980s, the AA’s then Research Director Mike Waterson assembled a group of leading thinkers to form an Economics Committee. He has since told me about the series of exceptional works he and the committee produced. I knew of some, but not all. They had set out to address some of the fundamental questions with a series of papers using the best evidence of the time.
The works provided a set of definitive answers to advertising’s big questions, but they are now over 30 years old. Many of the original texts were out of print and no longer available, except in HAT’s archives. Once the originals had been surfaced, Credos had them converted to digital formats for an online audience. We then commissioned distinguished practitioners, under the expert guidance of an executive editor, Laurence Green, to review contemporary thinking on and evidence for the key arguments. This has resulted in a new set of six essays, ensuring that the AA can again offer the authoritative answers to advertising’s big questions, much as it did 30 years ago.
None of this would have been possible without the help of our authors, advisors and many colleagues who contributed to this project. I’d like to thank Laurence Green for his expert editing, James Best for his patient guidance and advice, and Les Binet and Peter Field for their detailed analysis of latest Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) data. Most of all I’d like to thank Jeremy Bullmore for encouraging me to look for the works he and colleagues had produced so many years previously. I hope, that collectively, we’ve done the original works justice.