Modern Advertising Needs the Confidence To Say No

As the advertising world’s eyes return from Cannes, the increasing complexity of our business becomes clear. We have 17 categories,  including branded content, innovation, product design and activation, and we have the proof few of us needed that the world of marketing is getting more elaborate.

For more than 10 years, we’ve talked about media fragmentation, the wandering gaze of the consumer, the scarcity of attention and being paralyzed by stimuli. But we’ve never spoken about fragmentation for the marketer, the bewildering array of new options they face, and the difficulty in keeping focus and finding clarity.

As an industry, we need to address marketers’ impossible mission: Making informed decisions about a toolkit that involves a myriad of new and ever-changing channels, technologies and platforms.

Several dimensions of new

In the post digital age, we have a bewildering array of options:

  • We have new “channels” like digital outdoor, content marketing, native advertising, and branded utility.
  • We have media platforms like Vine, Twitter, Instagram, Secret, SnapChat and Pinterest.
  • We have new technology like addressable TV, iBeacons, personalized video rendering, and augmented reality, to name a few.
  • We have new advertisingtechniques like vending machine-based ideas, real-time marketing, the all new “social media newsroom”, growth-hacking sprints and working with incubators.

It’s all so abundant, and so much of it cheap. We have new ad tech companies offering $50,000 of free services for a trial. Flying a drone and filming it is a cheap viral hit. We can stick hashtags on ads, and it’s free. We’ve found that with new technology, we can produce campaigns bereft of an idea and hitch them to bandwagons for transport. How can anyone say no to anything in this landscape?

How to decide?

There are two huge challenges for marketers: With limited budgets and time, how can they prioritize? And with so much of it being new, how can they learn enough to make informed decisions?

The scale of this challenge has brought about incredible fear. Marketing staff face the dreaded scenario of the CEO asking what they are doing with the “app du jour” that their nephew has downloaded, or why they haven’t done what their competitor just did with augmented reality, QR codes, Shazam, Vine or any one of a million other new options.

Other brands, led by news-hungry CMOs, pursue all trendy new opportunities as a way to demonstrate to the ad world that they understand it all, and to steal some press coverage.

Cannes this year seemed the biggest disconnect ever between agencies and clients, I’ve never witnessed a festival celebrating the art of a practice seem so disconnected from its purpose. While clients have never had a stronger need for guidance and support, agencies have never seemed less equipped to provide it. Let’s work together to establish what works and stay informed on the ever-changing marketing world.

Finding the confidence to say no.

While award ceremonies celebrate the success of the few that got wise or lucky, our attention is drawn from the dead remains of short-sighted, ill-funded, poorly-executed gimmicks that litter the lost URLs, the poorly refreshed social media sites, and the hidden tabs of the internet.  Failure comes for certain to those that lack a strategy. Decisions should not be driven by egos, low-cost, or risk aversion.

Success needs to be measured in real-world metrics, and I don't know of a company that shows “likes” in its annual report. There is, of course, great potential for trying things out, for test and learns, for robust experimentation. But make sure your experiments are carried out properly, make sure you’re doing so as part of a strategy.

If you are an airline and you can currently sell tickets on laptops, tablets, mobile phones, over the phone and through agents, is there incremental revenue to be had by allowing ticket purchases over Twitter? If your coffee brand allows gifting coffee by tweets, are you selling more or selling in a more expensive clumsy way?

If you are a hotel, do you need to have a “live chat” option on your site, email, postal mail, phone numbers, Facebook, and Twitter as customer service options?

Nokia in 2006 launched 72 phones in one year, while Apple launched one. It’s famously what Apple doesn’t do, that makes them succeed, and it’s their thousand “no’s” to a single “yes.”

Success for modern marketers will come from the art of saying “no,” but that takes guts and confidence. When you know the marketing environment, and when you know your brand, customer, and what works, you will find the confidence to say “no.” Use the “no” to find focus on the “yes,” and do a few things remarkably well. Stay attuned to the changing media environment, and keep an open, exploratory frame of  mind, but remember that focus breeds success.



2 comments about "Modern Advertising Needs the Confidence To Say No".
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  1. Morten Pedersen from GLUE2020, July 2, 2014 at 6:01 p.m.

    Tom, great piece!

    Not sure why have so many forgotten the virtues of reach, frequency, recency and engagement. Diluting budgets achieves none if this.

    More articles like this please.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, July 3, 2014 at 10:07 a.m.

    Very thought provoking piece, Tom. There's no doubt that many advertisers are becoming jumpy least they miss out on one of the many new and widely publicized targeting schemes, alternative electronic media "platforms", apps, etc. What's more, a lot of these emerging opportunities are not even partially developed and, in some cases, they simply don't do what their proponents claim they do. Of course, it makes sense to keep a sharp eye peeled and, by testing, to determine whether any of these ideas have merit. Many advertisers rely on their agencies to perform this function and often the agencies do a very good job of it, as they can blend their experience across a variety of client experiences to provide sounder guidance. The problem is that the agencies can only go so far and, ultimately, it's up to the client to invest funds to test new new targeting concepts and media platforms---- as regards their audience delivery and environmental rub-off attributes and, also, what kinds of advertising "creative" works best in these venues. The problem, here, is that most brands tend to think about the current budgeting year and not the long-term, hence they are reluctant to divert branding dollars into tests or explorations of the new approaches or audience delivery systems. Worse, top management often fails to fund such efforts out of "corporate" dollars, preferring to rely on the agencies, who, to be fair, need the benefit of actual experience, not theory, to provide sensible and actionable recommendations. While simply diving in to embrace all, or most of these new opportunities so as to be "trendy" and in on the "cutting edge" makes little sense, It is not a good idea to keep passing the buck funding-wise while demanding answers. I suspect that the best course lies somewhere between these extremes.

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