Almost 60 years ago when the defense budget was around $10 billion (this was before Vietnam-induced inflation--that was a lot of money then) two high-ups in the department were having a conversation.
"How much do you think we really need to defend ourselves. Not to impose our will in the Southeast Asia, the Middle East, the Dominican Republic. How much do we need to keep our country safe?"
"$1 billion" was the reply.
Today "The Onion" ran an article headlined "Pepsi to Cease Advertising." It said "We know it's good, and everyone's pretty happy with the overall taste, so why spend all our time worrying about what other people think?" PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi told reporters during a press conference at the company's corporate headquarters. "Frankly, it just feels sort of weird and desperate to put all this energy into telling people what to drink. If they don't like it, then they don't like it."
While the Pepsi article is obvious satire, I think there is something in it and my Department of Defense anecdote that should give marketers pause.
How much advertising is being done and run just because that's the way it's always been done? Bureaucracies, as nearly anyone who's ever watched them will tell you, become self-sustaining. They do things not because they make sense but because momentum pushes to do what they've always done.
So much advertising is just empty devoid of words or pictures that motivate the viewer to act that it's hard to believe that CMOs won't begin questioning more than its efficacy, rather its very reason for being.