Posts tagged ‘media’

Five advertising quotations to get you through the weekend

1. “Is advertising a profession, like law or medicine? How many new parents clutch their baby to their breast and declare, ‘I want this child to grow up to be a media planner’?” -Jef I. Richards 

2. “We find that advertising works the way grass grows. You can never see it, but every weekend you have to mow the lawn.” – Andy Tarshis

3. “Advertising is a tax for having an unremarkable product.” – Robert Stephens

4. “Advertising treats all products with the reverence and the seriousness due to the sacraments” – Thomas Merton

5.  Until the rise of American advertising, it never occurred to anyone anywhere in the world that the teenager was a captive in a hostile world of adults.” – Gore Vidal


April 26, 2009 at 2:29 am 2 comments

Asymmetrical warfare and the democratization of communication

Domino’s Pizza is learning a brutal lesson in the dangers of the democratization of media. Two knuckleheads can turn a video camera into a weapon of mass destruction. Shareholder value, consumer confidence and brand equity have been gravely wounded by what will ultimately turn out to be a suicide bomb (it seems probable that the people who made the video will face significant criminal and civil judgments). The problem is that no matter how much pain Domino’s lawyers inflict on the perpetrators, it will be dwarfed by the damage the company has absorbed.

Big brands are facing a problem that is analogous to the one that faces the U.S. military in Iraq, Afghanistan and the waters off Somalia. Asymmetrical warfare always favors the little guy. The big, expensive weapons that were effective in traditional warfare aren’t effective in a world where the enemy can disappear into the warren of an ancient city (or the tangle of the world wide web). Brands’ best hope is to react with speed and force when they are attacked by new media terrorists. The problem is that the attack itself will always be more “media-friendly” (from the standpoint of the magnetic force it exerts upon the marketplace) than the finger-wagging response. While I feel for the president of Domino’s Pizza today, watching his video just makes me tired.

It’s not fair, but the advantage will always be with the offense, not the defense.

April 16, 2009 at 4:24 pm Leave a comment

Will we need copywriters and art directors in the post-advertising era?

Bob Garfield has written a reasonably good article in Advertising Age called “Future May Be Bright, But It’s Apocalypse Now.”  It basically goes medium by medium and shows how current business models are being destroyed and not replaced with anything that generates the amount of profits we have become used to. Online advertising revenue, for example, has clearly failed to deliver on the scale that is necessary to foot the bill for the free media consumers crave. Google, for example, paid $1.65 billion for YouTube two and a half years ago. In 2008 YouTube generated $90 million in ad revenue. Granted, it’s enough to bend over and pick up if you saw it lying in the street, but it represents an extremely poor ROI for Google. 

What Garfield doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about is what this will mean for the future of advertising agencies. If ads as we know them won’t be able to generate anything like the revenue agencies are used to, it stands to reason that agencies will turn to producing things that aren’t ads. We may find ourselves focused on creating content, entertainment, and tools that consumers genuinely need. Instead of merely selling our time by the hour–a model I have always despised because it penalizes skill and experience–we may create reusable marketing solutions that remain our intellectual property.

Moreover, if we are moving into a post-advertising era, agencies will need to begin employing a very different kind of person. As Neil Postman said, every tool has an ideological bias, and at the most basic level copywriters and art directors are tools of the advertising industry in its current form. The problem going forward is that if you continue to point the same tools at an entirely new type of problem, they will produce “solutions” that clients find irrelevant. Instead of writers and art directors, we may be hiring improvisational comics and set designers. Instead of account planners and media directors, we may be hiring filmmakers and game developers. The job will no longer be about creating advertising, but about creating branded or even sponsored marketing solutions that consumers will choose to experience because they fill a genuine need.

I encourage you to take a minute to do a simple exercise. Look at your business card. Read your title. Then ask yourself if anyone is going to need you to do that job in three years.

April 5, 2009 at 1:33 am Leave a comment

“No sex, no gasoline. Just give me some technology and leave me alone.”

A recent study by German boadband association Bitkom reveals that 84% of young people would choose having the internet and a mobile phone over having a romantic partner and a car. No word on whether the car was German or American.

What do you suppose the figures would be for other media? I suspect television would be nearly as high. MP3s and gaming consoles as well. While I take the study with a big grain of German salt, I think it’s not wrong to ask how technology is changing both what we feel we need to have a happy life and the social structure itself.

Perhaps Sartre got it right when he said, “L’enfer, c’est les autres” (“Hell is other people.”). Heaven, apparently, is an iPhone.

March 25, 2009 at 1:24 am Leave a comment

The Brand Companions Hypothesis: All media will be free for high-value consumers.

Now and again, I like to try to imagine how media are likely to change in the future. Today I was thinking about what I’ll call high-value consumers–people with a lot of disposable income who tend to purchase products with high margins. Is it possible that a group of brands (i.e., the consumer’s constant “brand companions”) will come together to “sponsor” the media consumption of such consumers so that they no longer have to pay for cable TV, internet access, satellite radio, etc?  What if, for example, BMW, Heineken, Whole Foods, British Airways, Exxon,  Apple and Costco pooled their consumer intelligence data and together ascertained that consumers of a certain profile were extremely likely to use all of their products? Would it not logically follow, then, that these brands would want to do whatever is necessary to ensure that they get a hammer lock on said consumers’ wallets? The best and most effective way to do this would be to block other advertisers out of their lives as much as possible. They could do it by picking up the tab for whatever media these consumers use, and for high-value consumers, the math could make sense. 

Of course, different groups of brands would emerge and align themselves with consumers of various profiles; that goes without saying. What bears some more thought, however, is how this kind of arrangement would change the advertising the consumers would see. If brands “own” consumers, will there less hard sell and more of a partnership between the brand and the consumer?  Will less advertising suffice? Perhaps only PBS-style announcements that “the following program is brought to you by your friends at BMW, Apple and Whole Foods” will be more than enough. Perhaps even more to the point, will your free cable TV get yanked away from you if you buy a Lexus instead of a BMW? It probably should.

Also, what will be the effect on consumers who aren’t part of these groups of high-value consumers that are rewarded with free media? Will they do whatever is necessary–including buying brands they can’t really afford–to reap the benefits enjoyed by others, or will some other system evolve to serve them?

I think this is a fascinating idea. Please let me know if I am alone.

March 23, 2009 at 1:20 am 2 comments

One billion Halo 3 matches = 63 CENTURIES of consumer engagement. Are any ad agencies listening? is reporting that the one billionth match of Halo 3 was played on Saturday night. So just how much Halo 3 is that? If you added up all the time people have spent playing the game, it would come to more than 63 centuries. Yes, you read that correctly–more than 6,300 years. Yet for reasons that mystify me, most agencies continue to treat gaming as if it is some sort of fringe entertainment, and even more maddeningly, as if it is something that is only engaged in by 19-year-old dudes. 

1 billion matches. It doesn’t get much more mainstream than that. Even more importantly, the enormous popularity of gaming is a great argument for a new definition of media altogether. Media are no longer what consumers watch or read or listen to; nor are they what agency media departments buy. Media are what consumers do. They’re what consumers interact with. As advertising professionals, we have to realize that interactivity is fast becoming for than an option; it’s becoming an expectation. 

The most interesting interactive work has never been in the advertising world. It’s been in gaming, and that is not going to change in the foreseeable future. The fact is that advertising can’t possibly catch up. Its only chance is to integrate itself within the fabric of gaming. We’ve seen some of that already, of course, but nothing like what we’re going to see in coming years. The movie industry should gracefully step aside. It is a foregone conclusion that gaming will dwarf it.

See the full story on Halo 3’s one billionth match at

March 10, 2009 at 12:47 am Leave a comment

Give your product away for free or you may go broke.

Free It isn’t a new topic, but it’s worth revisiting as it’s a tough one for companies and their agencies to get into their bones. This is not surprising. Telling a businessman he must give his product away in order to make money sounds absurd on its surface. It brings to mind Clov in Waiting for Godot, who famously said: “If I don’t kill that rat, he’ll die.”

If we look at the topic a little more closely, however, it becomes  less absurd. Indeed, it almost makes sense. As we move from an economy of scarcity to an economy of abundance (think digital assets with zero marginal cost of reproduction), how do you make money by giving something away? Increasingly, this is the central question more and more businesses will have to answer. And getting the answer wrong–or worse still, ignoring the question altogether–will earn you an express ticket to failure.

Media and the means of distribution are stronger than any one company or industry. You can’t fight them. It’s like opposing plate tectonics; there’s no point to it. Driven by these media and distribution forces, certain products “want” to be free. Consumers are smart enough to figure this out. Disagreeing with consumers about which products “want to be free” is, in the words of my junior high football coach, “like pissing up a rope.”  In other words, it is not recommended.

Here’s a link to an article from Wharton that should tide you over until Chris Anderson’s new book, Free: The Past and Future of a Radical Price, comes out in July.

March 9, 2009 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

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