There are two kinds of alibi advertising.
I discovered the first kind when I was working on wine accounts.
Each year, wine marketers would have us create storyboards. Then they would have us create extensive media plans. They would take these materials around to the trade and dazzle them.
Once they made their sale, they would throw away all the plans and run some print ads in Wine Spectator. This reached the retailers who had been conned, and gave them the vague impression that real advertising was happening somewhere.
The astounding thing was that wine marketers would do this year after year and never get called on it.
The second kind of alibi advertising isn't intentionally deceptive. It's a strategy by insecure marketing managers to save money by pretending to do advertising, and thereby becoming heroes to their bosses.
They are afraid to ask for the necessary budget to do things correctly, so they come up with "out-of-the-box" marketing ideas -- which in 99% of cases are just moronic schemes. They pitch these schemes inside their company to willing executives who are always looking for excuses to spend less money.
In both cases the result is the same - the appearance of advertising without the reality of it. In some companies, it's a way of life.
TAC predicts that 2009 is going to be the best year ever for alibi advertising. The convergence of 3 trends is going to ensure it:
- A shitty economy
- Loss of faith in traditional media
- The ascendancy of the web