April 06, 2011

4 Questions For The Digerati

Let's face it. Digital advertising has been a godsend for the advertising industry.

Three years ago, when the recession hit, the ad business was dead in the water. Digital saved our ass.

For those naifs who believe the nonsense that ad agencies were slow to adopt digital because they could make more money on TV, I can only say forget it. I'll be clearing up that baloney right here next week.

So, to those digital wizards who helped bail out this industry, I say thank you from all of us.

But I have few questions for you.

1. Be honest. If last year Pepsi-Cola had dumped a significant social media effort and instead spent tens of millions of dollars to launch a new TV campaign, and in the ensuing year Pepsi had lost 5% of it's market share, had dropped from second to third place in its category, had seen its market share erode at 10 times the rate of its rival, would you not --after a year -- call this TV campaign a failure? I think we know the answer. If so, why are you unwilling to apply the same standards to social media that you do to traditional media, and call Refresh a failure?

2. Often advertisers will launch multi-million dollar TV campaigns. Often enough these campaigns will fail. When they fail, why do I never hear anyone say that you can't blame TV? Why do I never hear anyone make the excuse that because TV is only part of the media mix and you need an integrated media effort, TV is not to blame? Why, in my over 200 years in the ad business, have I never heard this excuse for failed TV campaigns, but I hear it weekly for failed social media and digital advertising efforts?

3. After a decade as mainstream media, radio and television advertising had each built scores, if not hundreds of mainstream consumer brands. The web has been a mainstream medium for over a decade. Everytime I ask a digital advertising advocate to name me just one non-web-native brand that has been built by digital advertising -- just one brand of butter or soap or mayonnaise or underwear or bread or tires or clocks or frozen pizza or shampoo or cereal or batteries or golf balls....any consumer-facing non-web-native brand... why do I get a blank look and a sneer?

4. When are you going to start being honest and admit that the outrageous claims that were made about the power of digital advertising and social media were wrong? When are you going to stop using the same old handful of online advertising success stories (Zappos, Old Spice..ad nauseum) over and over again as if they were representative? When are you going to stop picking and choosing the data you provide based on its persuasiveness rather than its relevance? When are you going to come clean that, with the exception of search, online advertising has so far proven to be a tough nut to crack?

You did a great job of bailing out an industry. But unless you start talking straight and toning down the bullshit, you'll be known as the aluminum siding salesmen of the marketing world faster than you can imagine.

No comments: