Monday, June 1, 2009

We've got issues

I just read a headline that made me smile: "Boom in Issues Advertising Could Net Agencies $1 Billion".

Okay, they're talking about the United States with its shiny new government, but it's still nice to have our corner of the market validated. (Coincidentally, I'm actually doing some American social issues work right now, but more about that in a later blog.)

Here in the Great White North, the recession is also driving spending in social marketing. A new Economic Action Plan needs to be explained to the public, and other government priorities like security, health and the environment continue to require outreach. The government has to advertise, no matter what the economic climate.

This is a smart time to be in Social Issues Marketing. We're busy here on a number of government, association, and corporate social responsibility campaigns that will roll out over the next few months.

But it sounds like the U.S. issues advertising boom is not quite like the Canadian one:

"With the ad business the way it is right now and a big pile of money sitting out in the world of politics, there's no doubt traditional agencies will try to jump in," said Vinny Minchillo, chief creative officer of Scott Howell & Co. ... They will fail ... It's not uncommon for political clients to have television production budgets of under $15,000 per spot and a need to be on the air in 48 hours ... The hard-core retail shops probably have the best chance of being able to adapt quickly. Also the shops with employees who don't care much about sleeping."

Yikes! And here I was thinking that work-life balance was one of the most important issues of all...

Of course, the American article is talking about the hardcore world of Washington lobbyists. I see advocacy ads in The Hill Times and on bus shelters in front of Parliament Hill every day (we've even been responsible for some of them), but for the most part our clients are asking us to execute timely campaigns based on long-term communications strategies. We've done our share of crisis communications, but nothing like the dog-eat-dog scenario painted by Mr. Minchillo.

But then again, Minchillo continues to refer to Issues Advertising as "political". Up here, "political" advertising is kind of a hot potato.

I'll stick with communicating Canada's issues with appropriate niceness.

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