Real Media Riffs - Tuesday, Aug 15, 2006

WHAT STINKS -- Something doesn't smell right about the timing of Greg Stuart's departure from the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Maybe it's "What Sticks," the new book co-written by Stuart and marketing evolutionary Rex Briggs. The book, which draws from several years and millions of dollars of IAB-commissioned research, appears to be more of a platform for Stuart than the organization he's run for the past five years. And we can't help wondering if that didn't have something to do with today's announcement that Stuart would be moving on and that the IAB is searching for a new Stuart, er steward. Coincidentally, it's being conducted by Stuart. Executive recruiter Spencer Stuart, that is.

If you look at the stats, Greg Stuart's shoes may be pretty hard to fill. He took over as interim president just as the IAB, and the Internet ad economy, was dot-bombing, and some predicted the bureau might actually fold tent. Five years later, the IAB has become a model for other advertising trade bureaus. In fact, two years ago when we asked the heads of the other media ad associations whom they would trade places with during an American Association of Advertising Agencies media conference panel, they almost unanimously picked Stuart. Part of that was due to the renewed ascendancy of online advertising. Part of it was due to the fact that all other media are beginning to morph into online. Whatever the circumstances, Greg Stuart has emerged as the Horatio Alger of the advertising world, transforming a moribund, nearly extinct trade bureau into the envy of the media world. In five years, the IAB's membership has grown from 35 to 300 and its revenues have climbed 600 percent. And a significant part of that went toward funding a series of cross-media studies conducted by Briggs, which are the basis for "What Sticks," a book that promises to reveal "why most advertising fails and how to guarantee yours succeeds." All things considered, it delivers mostly on the first part of that promise, outlining numerous examples of what marketers typically do wrong, but only providing the most generic suggestions on how they should get it right.



"Our solution, based on our direct experience, is that marketers need a COP - a communication optimization process paired with marketing effectiveness measurement," write Stuart and Briggs. Aside from being a cute metaphor, the authors don't really deliver on the letter of that law. They simply offer platitudes like linking marketing effectiveness measures to action plans, segmenting your customer base and creating advertising that works. In other words, "What Sticks" is a lot like scores of other ad management books written before it. It does a pretty good job of explaining what doesn't work, but its essential advice for fixing it is to create advertising that works. And the main way to do that, it seems is to hire Briggs' Marketing Evolution research firm to measure it.

Beyond that, the book does a pretty good job of positioning Stuart for his next role as a marketing guru somewhere in the "private sector."

"Like Jerry Seinfeld, I'm going to leave at the top," Stuart told the Riff during a phone call from Brazil. But don't be mistaken by that quip. Stuart isn't changing horses in midstream and switching over to television.

"I will never, never, ever leave new media. I love this business. Not many people actually get to do what they love," he says, adding, "I think it was either Plato or Confucius who said it, but it's what I believe: "If you love what you do then you never work a day in your life.'"

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