Right around this time four years ago, I moved from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota to Madison, Wisconsin for what I knew would be some of the best years of my life. The tenth floor of Sellery Hall was my home for my freshman year as a Badger. It would be where I took my first shot of vodka before the big game, where I missed classes because I hit snooze one too many times, and where I fell in love with the idea of someday working at a marketing or advertising agency.
I wanted to be a copywriter. I wanted to be just like Peggy Olson, a resilient character from Mad Men, with an undeniable talent for forming exquisite copy. To a freshman learning about marketing and advertising for the first time, a position at an agency seemed like the sexiest and most glamorous career choice out there. To an employee now fully immersed in the industry, I must admit, there’s more to marketing and advertising than old fashioneds and Don Drapers. So without further ado, here are five myths I believed about marketing and advertising before I landed a job at an agency.
Myth 1: Marketing and advertising are one-in-the same.
Reality: In some cases the terms marketing and advertising can be flip-flopped and hold a similar meaning, and both require some of the same skills and knowledge. But, ultimately, there are many differences between marketing and advertising. Marketing is about preparing your product or service for the marketplace; advertising is about spreading the word in the marketplace. Advertising means buying placements to send a certain message whereas marketing means evaluating a business and deciding whether advertising is going to be effective for that business. Advertising is often included in marketing plans.
Myth 2: Working in a marketing or advertising agency is a very glamorous career.
Reality: Yes, we like to have fun and sometimes crack open a beer on Fridays after 4 p.m., but working in an agency doesn’t mean you’ll eat delectable brunches and drink fancy martinis every day. Sometimes people have to stay in the office long after 5 p.m. and sometimes you put hundreds of hours into a campaign, design, copy or strategy only to find out the client doesn’t like the ideas and your long hours are essentially trashed, forcing you to start from scratch.
Myth 3: Advertising costs companies millions of dollars a year.
Reality: Yes, if you want to buy a Superbowl commercial, you’re going to pay some big money for the spot. And, yes, big companies are spending a ton of money on advertising because they can, but at the end of the day, your marketing or advertising budget doesn’t have to cost you millions. With the right strategy and right message, even what you think is a small budget can stretch in a lot of ways. In many cases, it’s better to advertise somewhere than no where at all because you could be losing sales to competitors who are.
Myth 4: Advertising is unethical and manipulative.
Reality: Yes, back in the day, many advertisers sold lies. In 1919 Dr. William Frederick Koch claimed his medication could cure all human illnesses. In 1964 Lyndon Johnson essentially claimed that voting for Barry Goldwater would cause nuclear war. Today there are very strict marketing and advertising regulations and laws that we must follow. Advertising requires a high level of consumer trust. For the most part, advertising is honest. If you’re feeling tricked, read the disclaimer. If you think an advertisement has broken a rule, consult with the Federal Trade Commission, which was created to protect consumers.
Myth 5: You should constantly change your marketing plan to keep up with shifts in the industry.
Reality: If your current marketing plan is generating ROI and keeping new consumers interested, you don’t necessarily have to change it. Why fix something that isn’t broken? Changing the look, tone or voice of your product or brand can be confusing and frustrating to your consumers. To them, change is bad. You should definitely launch new campaigns or buy new advertising placements, but remember to stay true to your brand’s identity – unless a brand refresh is necessary. Don’t change your brand every time you think a campaign has gotten old. Change up the campaign but make sure that when your audience sees it, they recognize the messaging and look as your brand.
With that, I think it’s only fitting to leave you with a brilliant quote from Don Draper: “Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay.”