Is Ad-vertising Becoming “Ambi-tising”?

The word “advertising” is dervived from the Latin prefix “ad,” meaning “to” or “toward” — or even “against.” (The Latin comes from ad- “toward” + vertere “to turn.”) An advertisement was fired out toward a consumer like an arrow at a target to get the consumer to turn toward the bowman. (Any wonder that, in the face of this assault, the targets are fighting back?  A recent Ad Age article notes that a new 8,000+ person Facebook group formed to protest relentless Toyota ads. People are turning toward them all right!)

Now that advertising is increasingly focused on engagement and two-way conversation, is “advertising” still the right word for it. Shouldn’t it be “ambi-tising,” as in “ambidextrous” or “ambient,” or even “ambiguous”? “Ambi” means “around,” “about” or “on both hands.”

This two-way engagement and relationship is something completely different than traditional advertising. For example, in a recent presentation at Wharton, Joe Plummer, former Chief Knowledge Officer at McCann Worldgroup, discussed how Purina shifted the focus of its website from products to pets. Instead of pitching products “to” consumers, it engaged “with” visitors, by allowing them to share photos, find pet information, and profile their own pets. At the same time, the company offers information about its products. The old site was “advertising” but this one is “ambitising.” By engaging users, Purina is attracting over a million visitors a week. Nothing ambiguous about that.

Robert Gunther

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