Column: Productivity

  • by September 23, 2005
If advertising is dead, we'll just have to resurrect it, because consumers certainly don't want to live without it. But when we breathe new life into it, let's not revive the Frankenstein monster of today that the villagers of the global marketplace are pretty much beating to death right now.

Yankelovich data is unequivocal -- consumers do not want an end to advertising; they want better advertising. Advertising has become anathema because marketers have turned it into something that is lifestyle- threatening rather than lifestyle-enhancing. The imperative facing marketers is to reignite the spark that restores life and spirit to advertising.

The old marketing model of saturation (s), intrusiveness (i), and clutter (c) is seen by consumers for exactly what it is -- sic(k) marketing. Consumers want something new from advertising, not more of the same. Yet by and large, advertisers don't get it. Advertisers are locked into a process-centric, not a consumer-centric, orientation. The 4ps (product, place, promotion, and price) -- the four pillars of contemporary marketing drilled into every budding marketer -- make no reference to consumers. Although consumers are people, marketers don't see consumers as a p; hence, consumers get no place at the heart of marketing. The ps are for processes only.

In theory, consumers are what the 4ps are all about. But in practice, advertisers are focused on managing marketing processes because that's how they're evaluated and paid. Consumers can even get in the way if it turns out that a process is being stymied by resistance. The typical knee-jerk reaction to resistance has been to try and fix the existing process rather than invent something more in tune with what consumers really want.

With nothing to look forward to but more of the same, consumers are opting for no advertising. New technologies and better information have made this possible. But if advertisers were to put consumer interests ahead of process efficiencies, they would discover a new model for success in which advertising is more vital and more alive than ever before.

At Yankelovich, we refer to the model that's needed as concurrence marketing. The four cornerstones of concurrence are precision, relevance, power, and reciprocity.

Concurrence means two things: synchrony and agreement. It also means collaboration and cooperation. Precision and relevance are about getting in agreement or in sync with consumers in both targeting and messaging. Power and reciprocity are about cooperating or collaborating with consumers on product design and marketing execution.

Precision and relevance are fundamentals of the old advertising model, and they must be improved. Digital technologies, both in delivery and analysis, are making this possible. Yet one-to-one marketing doesn't work if it's just camouflage for more marketing saturation. The technological possibilities of processes must take a back seat to the interests of consumers.

Additionally, new rules must guide the ways in which marketers interact with consumers. Consumers want control over the timing and content of the advertising to which they are exposed. Few advertisers have thought about a business model for relinquishing all control to consumers, but that's the future, so now is the time to figure it out. Consumers want immediate rewards for their time and attention, not the promise of value to come from buying the product being pitched.

Time is the most valuable commodity today. Consumers have many more things they want to do than time to do them. Advertising has to be worth the time spent, or consumers will actively avoid it in favor of other things.

The penalty for not coming to concurrence is an ever-accelerating feedback loop, spiraling out of control. As more advertising chases more resistant consumers -- or as spending rises while response declines -- marketing productivity deteriorates at an increasing rate. There is a point at which the cost of making advertising work simply becomes unaffordable. At which point, advertising will die. The better path is concurrence. The better result is consumer engagement. The better outcome is marketing productivity.

J. Walker Smith is president of Yankelovich Partners and the coauthor of Coming to Concurrence: Addressable Attitudes and the New Model for Marketing Productivity. (

Next story loading loading..