Lesson’s From The Orange Muppet

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Aside from the ‘presidentially displeasing’ attendance at the U.S. Presidential inauguration, there was also a notable absence of brands advertising around the presidential debacle. As reported by Digiday.com, clients actively asked agency buyers to keep their brands away from news about Donald Trump, stating that they had “moral obligations” for staying away from him.

This is an astute move in an industry that’s – let’s be honest – more than a little self-serving. Marketers are constantly being convinced by their agencies, partners and peers to try everything and anything to stand out from the crowd in order to hit their numbers, achieve ROI and justify their existence. So it’s more than a little humbling to see marketers and brands saying NO.

However, saying NO to advertising around negative news is only a first step, David Meerman Scott, founder of #newsjacking, knows this all too well. Truth is, the sooner we all start saying NO to even bigger issues, the sooner everyone – most importantly – our customers, will benefit.

The one big NO we’ve all avoided talking about is NO MORE ADS, because, let’s be honest, what we all really want is to live in a world without ads. Which is why as a species we’ve been blocking ads for as long as there’ve been ads. We’ve been switching TV and radio stations, thumbing past ads in newspapers and magazines, and zoning out to billboards and out of home advertising for as long as we’ve had TV’s, radios, cars and inane banners propped up on roadsides.

If there’s one thing we can learn from President Trump’s week old legacy, it’s that yesterday’s thinking isn’t going to solve today’s problems. What’s needed – long overdue as it may be – is a fresh way of thinking about how marketers can best invest their budgets in a manner that works for themselves and their target customers. It’s time for an epic, multilayered change in thinking.

Consider this: marketers worldwide spend billions attracting new customers by interrupting them in the hope they become customers, yet they’ve known for a long time that the most effective way to attract new customers is to have existing customers evangelize their brand on their behalf. So why isn’t this a first priority, rather than apportioning a disproportionate chunk of a marketing budget on vanity channels like TV, radio, print and OOH? Old habits, perhaps?

Fact is, we’re an industry that’s only 25yrs old – one that’s close to 50% of total ad spend globally – yet we’re already in decline. CTR’s are dropping faster than anyone can respond. Consumers are fundamentally blind to online advertising. Likes’ shares and ‘engagement’ are little more than metrics akin to an Emperor with no clothes. If now’s not the time to change, when is?

We’re ALL – marketers, agencies, vendors and publishers – feeling the pinch. We’re playing with new tech with abandon, doing it for hygiene factors or for much hoped for competitive advantage, or worse, because we’re told to by our ‘partners’. What we’re not doing is doing the most important thing: putting our customers’ needs first.

More ad formats aren’t going to cut it.

Likewise, a greater volume of ad channels won’t be the answer we’re looking for. Interrupting a consumers’ online experience is 1990s thinking, we need to stop, rethink, go back to basics, look at the numbers and make our customer our #1 focus.

The most important challenge that we all need to address is this: when will we finally give the people what they want, a world without advertising? The answer: when we start stopping what we’ve always done, and begin letting real data, insight and human intuition inform our decisions.

Think about it: why are we still buying billboards for ‘brand awareness’, or to appease a CEO’s ego, when a highly targeted data led online campaign would be a far more efficient way to attract ‘lookalike’ audiences? Why aren’t more brands committed to mobile when it’s the first thing you and I see each day, yet it’s typically the last item on a media schedule?

Today’s marketer exists in an ecosphere that’s as famous for its ‘one hit wonders’ (remember MySpace & Brandscreen) as its rapid pace of evolution and complexity (N.B. there are 4,500+ technologies available today for marketers to use), so amidst all this change the only sustainable path forward must be answering the fundamental question: what’s best for our customer?




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