Commentary

Seeing the Bigger Picture: It's About Marketing...Not Advertising

  • by July 23, 2007
There was a time not too long ago when, for most agencies, developing advertising campaigns was about as deep inside a marketer's business as they needed to go... or frequently as far as they were asked to go. Of course, there were exceptions. Leo Burnett's unique relationship with Kellogg's was among the rarest kind of agency/marketer partnerships--where the agency actually WAS the marketing department. But we've come a long way forward since then (some might even argue that actually unbundling took us backward).

What we have learned for certain is that amidst the current spoils of mass marketing, what wins for marketers today goes way beyond an advertising campaign. What matters now, more than ever, is their ability to establish and advance relationships--relationships with consumers they can build and grow. Very few agencies are all about servicing that relationship. For now, most are concerned with rapid internal re-tooling--migrating from traditional skill sets to digital ones, or from purely interactive skill sets to more full service, integrated ones. Or for the big guys, slowly moving from silos to collaboration to integration...while more and more of their clients eventually run out of patience and just move on.

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Take the conversation up a level and you'll find there's a different conversation happening that's more about how to truly advance consumer relationships than how to integrate agency silos with their brand counterparts. And it's not about a new technology, media channel, or advertising campaign. It's really just about the stuff of marketing.

The higher-level conversation goes like this: To truly affect a brand's business, you've got to get out of the Advertising trees and into the Marketing Forest where the important stuff of establishing relationships, supplying insights that result in innovative products, generating cultural currency and promoting real sales reside: the Business of Marketing. Today, that's what we're really in the business of... not what the next television campaign should look like.

Advertising will remain a critical component of the marketing continuum, but here in the digital world, it's really not the core of the business anymore. Nor is it just about a cool Web site--it's about providing online services like customer care that delight customers all by itself instead of routing them to a phone bank in India. Or retention email programs complete with broadband video that help provide deeper, richer information to curious customers. Or providing the customer with wireless access to their information from wherever they are, whenever they are. And that's just for starters.

It's not about advertising...it's about business.

And it requires disciplines that don't currently exist across traditional agencies--things like deep technology, consumer experience analytics, user experience and relationship marketing strategy that encompass the whole relationship...not just message strategy.

It's high time we broaden our thinking beyond doing great ads and start focusing on real brand values and ethics that will sustain relationships ... and that's complex stuff that requires a whole set of disciplines that transcend advertising.

It's a different organizing principle than most agencies are accustomed to--but for those who see the power of advancing relationships, it's not just something to aim for, but to get busy doing now.

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