We'll miss it when it's gone. In a week when there's news of ITV's half year results being 'hit by the worst decline in UK television advertising on record' and when losses at News International (owners of The Sun and The Times) are causing a rethink on free access to the newspapers' news websites, now is a good time to consider what's so good about advertising.
- The strict separation of editorial from advertising is important in defence of press freedom and in helping consumers make choices. (Public relations can tend to blur these boundaries).
- The advertising-funding model has given us an abundance of free television, free magazines, free commercial radio and nearly-free newspapers as well as free websites and some free products. How much are we willing to pay to keep these?
- Commercial-free spaces (such as the BBC) are welcome – but a world with no commercials would be a greyer place. Some of us can remember the communist Soviet Union; it was commercial-free, but there was no lack of government propaganda.
- Advertising can be entertaining and even culturally important. Look at a newspaper of a hundred years ago, and the advertising is more interesting (because more culturally specific) than the news. Look at an old photograph of a street scene in a major city and you can date it from the transport, the fashions – and the advertising and branding.
- I'll find it much harder to teach public relations to first year undergraduates without reference to advertising (young people are particularly responsive to advertising – and public relations concepts and practices are elusive at first).