The End of Advertising

The End of Advertising

Why It Had to Die, and the Creative Resurrection to Come

Book - 2017
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"One of the most successful admen of recent years throws down the ultimate challenge to his profession: innovate or perish. The ad apocalypse is upon us. Today millions are downloading ad-blocking software, and still more are paying subscription premiums to avoid ads. This $600 billion industry is now careening toward outright extinction, after having taken for granted a captive audience for too long, leading to lazy, overabundant, and frankly annoying ads. Make no mistake, Madison Avenue: Advertising as we know it is over. In this short, bound-to-be controversial manifesto, Essex offers both a wake-up call and a road map to the future. With trenchant wit and razor-sharp insights, he presents an essential new vision of where the smart businesses could be headed, to the cheers of advertisers and consumers alike."--Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Spiegel & Grau, 2017
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780399588518
Branch Call Number: HF5823 .E88 2017
Characteristics: 220 pages ; 20 cm


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Feb 02, 2018

Advertising veteran Andrew Essex argues that advertising that interrupts the main content is on its last legs. Advertising that is "the thing that sells the things" and not "the thing" itself has been annoying for over a century; the fact that people now have the technological power to block out those annoying banners ads and commercials (or just avoid them altogether by using a subscription service like Netflix) shouldn't be seen as an end to advertising but as a reason that the industry can finally get out of its own way. As advertisers have long known--even before the internet--that at least fifty percent of their efforts don't work, the time to change is overdue. For all of the hand wringing about the future of advertising, companies still have billions (and possibly trillions) to spend on getting the word out about their companies and products; the question is not if but how.

Essex doesn't come out and use the phrase "public relations", but that's exactly his prescription. Instead of forcing people to watch an attempt at selling, he advises instead convincing people that your brand is worthy of attention and eventually patronage. He cites two recent examples of how well this can work: the Citi Bike program sponsored by Citibank just a few years after it's awful role in the Great Recession and The Lego Movie. In the case of Citibank, their public perception improved, as did the likelihood that someone would buy their products; in the case of The Lego Movie, it not only netted over $200 million in profits, it led to such a spike in demand for the Lego blocks that the company suffered from a temporary shortage of the toys in the months after the film opened. In both cases, the companies were producing new "things", not only clever ways to sell other "things".

Essex goes a step further than the Cit Bike program and suggests that big corporations have an opportunity to improve infrastructure, including many of the crumbing bridges and train systems in large municipalities filled with affluent potential customers. He also suggests that outright sponsorship of programming, along the lines of what was offered in the early days of television (e.g., GE Theater), would be an improvement over the current model which interrupts the main programming intermittently.

Essex recognizes that people are going to be uncomfortable with something like a Bank of America highway to replace, say, I95, or the Nestle Water Resources Authority of Eastern Massachusetts. Unfortunately, he doesn't have a great rebuttal other than "get over it", which implies there isn't another viable solution to our infrastructure problems. He may very well be right, but the argument could use a little work.

This book took a little while for me to get into. While I appreciated Essex's jocular style, he could be both repetitive and meandering in the beginning. Once I got into the meat of the book (about 50 pages in), I found it much easier to read.


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