The Media Jukebox

by , Apr 29, 2004, 12:00 AM
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You've seen those sexy machines in bars, the neon lighting dressing the edges. Or perhaps they have back-lit bubbling liquid circulating around the trim of the machine. They are jukeboxes.

The principle is fairly simple. A person puts a few coins in the machine-or bills, I guess it is, these days (been a long time since I was listening to Journey at Shakey's Pizza)-pushes some buttons that correspond to a particular song and the song plays.

This format has been entertaining patrons at bars, burger joints, and pizza parlors for decades. It is a quick, easy way to hear a favorite song, woo a woman, or drunkenly visit an old memory.

It is not, however, a great way to get your media planning done.

Too often clients approach their agencies as though they were jukeboxes. The client comes to the agency with a specific marketing plan in mind and a firm idea of which media he or she wants to use, as well as a pre-selected list of media vehicles. Oh, and they don't want to pay much for you to produce it.

The client has a song he or she wants to hear, they only want to pay a few drachmas to hear it, and they want to hear it now.

The ongoing commodification of media in general certainly doesn't help. When a thing becomes a commodity, the point of differentiation between providers becomes the quality and speed of service. That's it.

With online-and traditional media, as well-clients many times don't let their agencies do their jobs. They come to them saying "I want this, and some of that, and a little of this, and I want it now and I don't want to pay very much for it."

What many clients don't seem to realize is that by bringing on an agency to help them with their advertising and marketing, they have brought on board a collection of typically supremely intelligent and experienced people who are experts at putting together the best plan possible that satisfied a company's stated marketing objective. They don't NEED to be told what to do. They will need some direction in terms of a marketing objective, but from there, the agency can handle it. If you need to tell your media shop what media to use and where to place your ads, either A) you don't need a media shop or B) your media shop sucks.

To paraphrase an old saying by David Ogilvy, the pantheon of advertising wisdom and one of my heroes, "why buy a dog if you are going to do your own barking?"

Of course, there is the flip side to this scenario that has the client wanting you to produce something entirely customized, but still expects the product to be as readily available and easy to produce as pushing buttons on a juke box.

"I want a jingle written by Beethoven!"

"Uh, but Beethoven is dead, sir."

"I don't care! I want him resurrected and I want him composing a little ditty for my new cat food!"

"Well, all right, sir... but, uh, it's going to take more than a handful of quarters and five minutes to muster the forces of Darkness and reanimate the dead."

"I want a resurrection! I want Beethoven! And I want it to cost a dollar!"

You know where this kind of thing goes. Somehow the account person has got the client paying a dollar for a guy dressed up like Beethoven writing a jingle for a 30-second reminiscent of "Fur Elise."

Either way, the agency is not relied on for its expertise. Instead, the agency is there to satisfy the whim of a client who is sure they know more than their shop. And if what the client has imagined doesn't work out, the agency can always serve as the fall guy.

For a while, agencies were considered repositories of marketing wisdom and experience. Somewhere along the way, they become oxen yoked to pull a client's desire.

At some point, the same old song becomes wearisome. To hear something new, you might have to stop pushing grimy buttons in a tired bar and go out into the sun and buy a new album.

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