Is the end of marketing really nigh?

In an FT opinion piece today, Maurice Saatchi, of all people, signals “The strange death of modern advertising” – the headline of an obituary for marketing.

Changing consumption habits brought about by an explosion in digital content, the breakdown of communal media consumption and the resulting erosion of attention spans are killing off the old-style industry, says the ad agency founder.

“This, apparently, is what makes it possible for a modern teenager, in the 30 seconds of a normal television commercial, to take a telephone call, send a text, receive a photograph, play a game, download a music track, read a magazine and watch commercials at x6 speed. They call it “CPA”: continuous partial attention. The result: day-after recall scores for television advertisements have collapsed, from 35 per cent in the 1960s to 10 per cent today.”

So, he says, businesses need to pair down their communication to focus on associating products with one killer concept: “The word is the saviour because in each category of global business, it will only be possible for one brand to own one particular word. And some of them have already been booked.”

No more “have a break”, no more “Schhh, you know who”. Just one word, “one-word equity”, will suffice, thank-you.

How about “dubious“?

This on the same day Saatchi uses the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival as a platform for a speech on “the death of advertising, the importance of simplicity and the rise of the new digital age for marketing”? On the same day he took part in a chat with readers on the topic? And just as he launches a Flash-heavy website,, to tell clients all about the three-word term (which appears to have been knocking around for a while)?

M&C Saatchi is clearly raising one-word equity as a flag for its own, continuing and evolving advertising business – using these outlets as a coordinated multiplatform campaign to tout its own service as in touch with the latest trends.

With far less clarity than is proselytised, however  – the opinion piece alone runs to 950 words and, responding to a reader’s question, “Has the internet killed advertising as we know it?“, Mr Saatchi, replies: “No”. When I thought that was the whole premise.

So for one word, try “confused”.