News Flash: There Never Was An Industry Model!

Joe Mandese's "Fast Forward" column in the November issue of Media shared some fantastic opinions and insights. But I contend that the real issue is not that the old business model is outmoded; there never was an advertising business model to begin with!

The ad industry got away with the jabberwocky it presented as "modeling" for so many years (and still today) because:
1. For the most part, everything was fine in "client land." The big guys spent the most, sold the most and made the most. So, the "models" must have been OK.
2. Advertising agencies were allowed to present what they did as more of an art than a science. Models were an interesting adjunct to the process but not really all that important.
3. Media departments were allowed to justify planning strategies/tactics on a single measure--efficiency--that had nothing to do with a client's business.
4. Despite the fact that agencies had some fairly good insights over time into the "non-engagment" of readers/viewers/listeners with advertising messages, they avoided any real debate on the issues or meaningful funding to investigate what was really going on.(I had some insights into the problem years ago when the Percy Meter system was experimenting with commercial break measures. Some significant decreases were ignored or simply "factored" into planning.)
5. The language of advertising (TRPs, Reach, Frequency, engagement) basically presented "junk" science in an industry-created (and rarely understood) language.
I think we are on the verge of finally admitting that we have gone a long way down, and finally reached, the end of a dead-end road with all the models. If we are ever to actually create a model with the word "business" preceding it, we need to:
1. Stop the insanity! Why is each holding company trying to create its own, proprietary ROI model? This is tantamount to a Tower of Babel approach. Focus on a single model for the industry and for the ease/convenience of our clients. Also, talk to MMA. They have a lot of equity in ROI modeling and have built up a great database.
2. Work with clients to divert X percent of all traditional ad budgets toward the funding of a multi-agency, multi-discipline, ARF study of the big picture. And another observation: the consumer was always in control. We all knew this, but as long as there were so few options to choose from, control was never much of a problem.



What happened was the ad biz was short-sighted and simply got blind-sided by each advancement in technology that slowly but surely expanded those options--and finally tipped the balance so that the consumer really had some meaningful control over media selection, usage, and impact on our business.

Finally, I am excited by the growing challenges and questioning from industry writers. After too many years of simply reporting on the process, it's good to read some healthy, real and necessary debate on the process.

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