The Significance of Advertising

William Marsteller
Marstel1er Inc.

I accepted this invitation to talk to you for two reasons. First of all, it is an opportunity and a challenge to meet with a group who are articulate leaders today, and who will without question supply leaders of tomorrow who will shape the thinking of others in businesses and communities all over. The second reason I accepted is that it would force me to do something I have wanted to do for a long time: to try to put into sequence my accumulating opinions about the significance and values and responsibilities of advertising in a free competitive economy.

Advertising is not a necessary commodity. It isn't needed to sustain existence, It isn't even very old. Depending upon what you mean by advertising, as a business it has been around for less than a hundred years, which in the span of history is barely more than a few minutes.

Like you men and women here, it's young but doesn't like to be reminded of it; it has a good deal of know-how, but relatively little experience; it makes some mistakes but has remarkable vitality to overcome them; it is enthusiastic, and often very charming, but sometimes a little thoughtless or ill-mannered; it has a long and promising life ahead of it—a life that can be full and profitable and useful and proud; or one than can slip into boredom and humdrum, and self-seeking.