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Leo Burnett Company, Limited
175 Bloor Street East, North Tower
Toronto, Ontario M4W 3R9
+416 925 5997

Margaret Arnold

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Business Is the Lifeblood of Advertising

How to navigate the current economic crisis without being dragged into a sea of pessimism

Recently, the world hasn’t been easy on anybody, that’s for sure. It hasn’t been easy even for those blissfully unaware of indicators such as the GDP, unemployment, interest rates, inflation or even my beloved football team, Vasco da Gama. Dragging ourselves under a sea of pessimism will not help us navigate the current crisis we’re experiencing.

Focusing solely on our business – communications, whether targeted at the masses or at specific niches – it is my belief that the time has come to change a well-known saying coined many years ago.

Everyone has heard that "advertising is the lifeblood of business." Thanks to a comment made by my friend and partner, Marcello Magalhães, I believe the quote deserves an update while we go through this period of economic hardship. In my opinion, the phrase that best reflects our times should instead read: "Business is the lifeblood of advertising."

More than ever, it’s a matter of keeping your client's best interests at heart. It’s about rolling up your sleeves and doing what needs to be done – boost sales, enhance the brand value, grow market share and share of mind, as well as making use of other concepts and measurements for developing business.

Advertising alone does not create miracles. If the agency is not 100% aligned with the business objectives of its clients, if it’s not more about the business than the advertising, then it is doomed to fail.

An advertising campaign is only the tip of the iceberg – what you see is merely a small part of the whole. The larger part is under water. This part, not visible to most, requires a thorough understanding of the client’s business on the part of the agency: from the conception of a service or product to its production, distribution, marketing and exposure to consumers, in addition to constant awareness of the competition. We must increasingly deepen our understanding of our clients’ business. We must identify with them, or as we say in Brazil, “feel the owner’s pain.” We need to develop bespoke actions, adjusted accordingly to the needs of each client, which are unique and not mass produced. This is the proposition we brought to Leo Burnett back in 2011: to be Tailor Made.

I agree that in the world in which we live today, digital media, social networks, smartphones and the Internet all play a crucial role. But please, let us not forget the importance of newspapers, magazines, radio, pamphlets and inserts, billboards and, of course, broadcast television. It's time to think holistically. Any help is of importance in times of crisis, and this also applies to media. No single media is better than the other. They are all important depending on our clients' needs. Hence, business is the lifeblood of advertising.

Crisis and opportunity can coexist simultaneously, as proved by Leo Burnett 80 years ago when he opened his business in Chicago in the midst of the Great Depression in the 1930s when half of the working population was unemployed. Today, Leo Burnett is one of the five biggest ad agencies in the world, with more than 9,000 employees and clients in 85 countries.

As my good friend Fernando Tigre would say: "Smooth seas do not make good sailors."


Paulo Giovanni is chairman of Leo Burnett Tailor Made and PWW agencies in Brazil.

This article was originally published in Portuguese on Propmark.