Over two decades ago… back in the 1980’s…. I took a position as an advertising account executive at a small advertising agency. It was my agency’s job to manage my client’s advertising dollars in the most effect way possible. The way we were paid for this management was via the traditional retainer + 15% of the dollars spent. We were, in the words of the Big Picture Advertising blog, “a factory dedicated to producing 30 second commercials.” Sure, we also produced print, billboard, radio and television spots, but at the time, our job was to connect our clients with their customers using the tools at our disposal. Looking back now, the options seem mind numbingly limited.
Fast forward two decades and the entire LANDSCAPE of communication, not just advertising, has changed dramatically. Forrester’s Peter Kim writes, “Today’s agencies fail to help marketers engage with consumers, who, as a result, are becoming less brand-loyal and more trusting of each other.” (Note: Reading bl0og posts about the report are as close as I’ve come to reading the actual report.)
Paul Isakson expands upon that further:
According to the articles, Forrester is stating that consumers don’t trust the mass marketing messages cranked out by agencies and brands any longer. Instead, they are turning to family, friends and peers within their communities to help inform their purchasing decisions
Is traditional media and advertising dead? Not by a long shot!!! However, the traditional advertising agency model is in need of life support.
In the words of the new marketing blog:
In B2B especially, lots of other marketing and PR agencies paid the monthly wage bill by having a deep understanding of their client’s target customer audiences. The tools and techniques being applied were always secondary to an understanding of what was driving the audience.
We had to get it right because we all survived on the dog end of the budget that was leftover after the advertising agency had spent the bulk of it randomly carpet bombing an unmoved audience with the advertising idea du jour (I exaggerate, a bit).
The thing is… and this is a drum I pound CONSTANTLY on this blog… advertising created without the aforementioned deep understanding of a client’s target customer audience is doomed to fail. Whether it’s Nissan’s 1990’s GI Joe/Barbie flop or the recent Bridgestone dance team confusing us with trying to figure out the connection between Dancing with the Stars and tire sales… advertising that doesn’t work is nothing new. The difference between advertising in the 1980’s and today is NOT based in the number of options available in which to deliver the message. Instead, the main difference between the advertising messages of the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s and Advertising 2.0 is the advertiser’s ability to measure the results and to see a flop for what it is… an attempt to impress the creative directors at rival agencies instead of an attempt to sell product for the client.
Today’s advertiser can look at their web logs and SEE the customers not coming and not buying in droves!!! Log files are hard to fudge. The old phrase, “I know 50% of my ad dollars are wasted, I just don’t know which half that is” is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Oops! That ad your agency ran 15 times last week didn’t budge the traffic figures on the web site’s log files.
PLUS, another difference between now and then is that advertisers can watch their customers enter into candid conversations via the new media options such as blogs and social networking sites. A Google alert is an effective tool anyone can use to notify you that a wronged customer is airing a complaint on the web! (On the positive side, you do have a chance to issue a public apology in response.)
In the end, advertising is all about accountability which admittedly, scares a LOT of us in the advertising and marketing game. Rightly so… even when we’re meticulous about connecting with the target audience and creating a creative and compelling message for our client… all it takes is a surely teenager running the register after a traumatic break up to poison the well of goodwill in a client’s business.
Anyone who’s dealt with those squirrelly agency clients knows that no business can survive without repeat business. Sometimes, an effective advertising campaign will just hasten the demise of the poorly managed business.
Customers have NEVER blindly followed the Pied Piper of Advertising… that was a product of wishful thinking on the part of the “Mad Men” who created the ads. Traditional forms of advertising are ANYTHING but dead!!!
When the agency in question understands the target audience… then new media options are viewed as opportunities instead of challenges. The problem is breaking those executives out of their ivory towers and encouraging them to get out and shake hands with the unwashed masses that comprise their target audience.