What if TV Advertising Were Banned?

Last weekend, I finally got around to watching POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.  It was a mind bender for sure, since the movie itself is a critique about product placement in movies even as the entire documentary is being financed by product placement.

What really caught my attention though was the point in the film where Morgan Spurlock goes to Sao Paulo, Brazil, where outdoor ads have been banned since 2007.  When Spurlock asks some local storekeepers how the law has changed their business, they tell him that it has forced them to innovate and develop products and services that their customers will actually want and want to talk about.  Wow. That sounds like the synopsis of Purple Cow from Seth Godin. Spend more money on R&D and  innovations and less on advertising.

Of course, advertising in Sao Paulo isn’t gone. It’s just changed. Sao Paulo is the world’s seventh largest city by population and the tenth largest city in the world by GDP.  Clearly, business is still getting done. Ads and communications are still being made. It’s just different.  It’s a classic case of necessity being the mother of all invention. In this case, the law has forced businesses (especially retailers) to be more creative about getting customers into their stores. How are they doing it?  I’m not sure. They didn’t cover that in the film and I’ve never actually been to Sao Paulo.

That said, the entire premise got me thinking.  What if tomorrow TV advertising were banned in America?  What would we do? It may sound preposterous, but it’s not. Because every time a client tells us that they don’t have the budget for television (or a very limited budget), for all intents and purposes it’s as if television advertising has been banned. But perhaps that’s not so bad.  Perhaps it’s an opportunity to be more strategic and more creative, just like they’ve been forced to do in Sao Paulo.

So how’s this for a challenge?  What if, for every assignment we got, we pretended that television wasn’t an option. What would we do?  How inventive and creative could we ultimately be?



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