When I studied marketing and advertising back in the late 1980s, the gods of marketing and advertising knowledge were Philip Kotler, Erwin Ephron and Simon Broadbent. Replacing swashbuckling ad men like Leo Burnett, David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach and others, they helped create the more rational foundations on which many of the biggest brands were built.
P&G, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Marlboro, VW and many, many others benefited from articulating their 4 Ps, which stand for Price, Promotion, Place and People – or, in other words, pricing strategies, promoting the brand (e.g., advertising), distribution (via Place) and target audiences (People). These companies explored better media strategies and plans via optimizing reach and frequency. And they learned from Simon Broadbent’s work on how (and why) advertising worked (consumers hearts and minds).
Of course we now live in a very different era with more touch points, more opportunities to connect, more diversity, more issues to tackle, and so on. New marketing constructs like the 4 Cs, the 8 Ps, or new acronyms like AIDA+ADIA, S.A.V.E. and others have been developed and debated at conferences and in books and white papers.
TV has been declared dead, as has print advertising. Traditional advertising as a whole is also dead, according to some. There were even two brave souls who declared zero paid media as the new marketing model (full disclosure, one of those two brave -- or idiotic -- souls was me, and the other Joseph Jaffe).
As always, none of those declarative statements were fully true. In fact, the more I study new marketing and advertising constructs, the more I am convinced that some of the foundational truths from Messrs Kottler, Ephron and Broadbent are still as true today as they were in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
The environment and the context of the 4 Ps has certainly changed. But in order to build and sell a brand, I believe the construct of the 4 Ps still works pretty well. That the nature of advertising (Promotion) and the makeup and interests of the target audiences (People) have changed does not take away from the fact that you still need to define your message and intended target audience. Never mind that the message will be delivered through a programmatic buy using first, second- and third-party data.
I believe that the growth (explosion) of digital media has made Erwin Ephron’s work more essential than ever before. We all complain about being hammered to death with repetitive ads in digital channels. Frequency pays the agencies and platforms a dividend, but creates overkill (sometimes) for consumers and wasted ad dollars for marketers. There is nothing wrong with thinking through what an effective frequency might look like for your target, and trying to curb some of the runaway delivery.
And “how advertising works” is a lively debate that rages on and on. Can digital ads build brands? Is sponsorship useful or wasteful? And how much of each of the possible connections that could reach your intended target audience is enough? Too much? Not nearly enough? Simon Broadbent would have loved the challenge (and the richness of data today). Many of his insights have stood the test of time.
It is perhaps comforting to realize that “out with the new, in with the old” is true as far as the laws of marketing are concerned.