Last week Maurice Saatchi did an interview with the FT talking about the “strange death of modern advertising”. According to Maurice “Sometimes I feel as though I am standing at the graveside of a well-loved friend called advertising”.

I’m not sure many of us would mourn the death of advertising, but his solution? “One word equity”. Mmm… sounds like a very expensive ad campaign is required to achieve that…? What is he on about?

Let’s kick off with a few ironies…

- Maurice’s big talk sits behind the FT’s paid subscription wall – that should reach the masses.

- It points to the One Word Equity web site which exhibits such outstandingly poor usability and accessibility that it could only come from an ad man. (how’s about “DDA” for one word equity?)

Maurice argues that advertising is dead and that the only way forwards is for brands to ‘own’ single words, and to ruthlessly focus on very simple messages. Google owns “search”, America owns “freedom” etc.

I’m all in favour of simplicity of messaging and function. Indeed, for me Steve Krug’s excellent book on usability “Don’t Make Me Think” is more than just a book on online user experience, it’s an approach to successful products and services in the modern world. People have too little time, too much choice. Make them think too much and you’ve lost them.

As I pointed out in my post Mega brands and micro brands - what role is the internet playing?, there are also great search marketing and online marketing benefits to be gained from focusing on as few words as possible.

However, as James Cherkoff points out, it seems that “Saatchi's suggestion for nervous executives looking at the sand slipping through their fingers is to grip tighter”.

To achieve one word equity, I presume you have to spend even harder on your advertising?

Have these people learned nothing?

As James goes on to say “The best response to complexity is an intelligent dialogue not the, "ruthless paring down of the paragraph to the sentence and the sentence to the word".  And if brands don't want to join in, people will be happy to speak on their behalf.”

Hear, hear.

I’m also not convinced that propositions or messaging need to be one word. What they do need to do is to be clear, easy to use / interact with, solve a specific need, and be executed flawlessly.

I’m not sure, for example, how I’d explain LinkedIn in one word. But I do know that it meets the above criteria. And I tell other people. And I’ve never seen them advertise.

Advertising isn’t dead but the mass market, ram it down your throat, 30 second TV spot, is. And, frankly, who cares?

As I posted in Fire all your marketing staff – you don’t need them I think a small amount of ad spend could go a lot further if channelled into product management / experience design / customer satisfaction.

And, please, do go and have a look at Maurice’s site on One Word Equity for a lesson in how not to deliver on any of my criteria. Shockingly bad. All it’s missing is a half gigabyte intro movie with ‘Skip intro’. Mind you, having “( please disable popup blockers )” on your entry page is a nice new twist….

Ashley Friedlein, CEO,

Ashley Friedlein

Published 27 June, 2006 by Ashley Friedlein @ Econsultancy

Ashley Friedlein is Founder of Econsultancy and President of Centaur Marketing. Follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (2)


Robert Andrews, Journalist & Publisher at N/A

Yes, the site is hideous and bloated and works utterly against the drive toward brevity that Saatchi advocates.

about 12 years ago



The fact that some older folks dont get the site shows that they are digital immigrants and not tomorrow's audience. Saatchi recognises this; show the site to a 14 year old and they will navigate it with style whilst texting a friend and playing their psp...think about it

over 9 years ago

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