17 December 2018 Business

What will Santa bring the industry?

The Christmas wish list includes hopes that the advertising industry wakes up to the problems with social media.

And so the year draws to a close. It has been a long one, with the industry suffering the uncertainties caused by Brexit, a steadily increasing set of prices, particularly in paper, and continuing overcapacity that company closures cannot erase. We have customers that seem to have lost their faith in print.

Instead their faith, in the sense of a belief that cannot be supported by the known facts, has gone to social media. This is a bubble that keeps inflating. The arrival of GDPR merely encouraged advertisers to try to gain permissions and to find a way around the regulation. They did not ask whether using digital channels is the most effective channel for their message. And the evidence is accumulating that it is not. Facebook admits to purging millions of fake accounts, has been caught claiming more adherents among the young than there are youth in America and it has been responsible for inappropriate micro targeting. Now Facebook is gradually being hemmed in not by the marketing industry but by politicians who fear that the social media network may cost them their seats.

The printing industry needs to join in. We need to point out that the figures around social media do not stack up. That a 'like' carries only gossamer meaning, that real consumers do not have conversations with faceless brands, but with real people in real shops. Our wish for Christmas is that the scales drop from the marketing industry's eyes and that in the New Year, print can deliver a message that shows up the online first and only evangelists for the mountebanks that they are.

Gareth Ward

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