March 02, 2017

Invisible Advertising

A few months ago I was contacted by one of the world's largest marketing companies. No names.

They were instituting a review of several brands and wanted my advice on how to properly conduct a review. I spoke to the global head of this and the worldwide head of that.

I gave them my advice in one sentence. Look for the agencies that make the best ads. All the rest is trivial.

Marketing today is a battle to be noticed. There is so much of it. It is so loud and so relentless. There are so many ways to throw money away.

But the worst way to throw money away is by doing invisible advertising. What is invisible advertising? It is advertising that looks, sounds, and smells like everyone else's advertising. It has no impact and leaves no trail. It appears and disappears in a second. It is a total waste of money.

We have become so focused on irrelevancies that we have forgotten the first principal of advertising -- it doesn't matter how well you sing if no one hears you.

Here are some ways advertisers wind up with invisible advertising:

1. Confusing strategy with execution. They spend six months on strategy and three weeks on execution. They think that because they have a strategy that has been tested to death that their work is done. Their work has not even begun. The consumer never sees your strategy statement or your briefing documents. All she sees are your ads. And if your ads suck, the whole thing sucks.

2. Doing "360˚ media." This is one of the biggest and dumbest of the media clich├ęs. First of all, no one can afford to do 360˚ media. Second, it's counter-productive -- you wind up sprinkling a little media here and a little there and have no impact anywhere. It is far better to do one medium well than 10 media poorly. The objective of media strategy is to find a way to have maximum impact, not maximum dabbling.

3. Digital first: Of all the dumb ways to piss away dollars, this is the dumbest. It is the equivalent of choosing the medicine before you know what the ailment is. You would have to be an imbecile to have an ideology that advocated for "bus sides first." The medium needs to fit the objective. But, as always, when it comes to online advertising all the rules of logic and prudence have been suspended. It is perfectly ok these days to have the answer ready before you know the question.

There is only one aspect of advertising that is absolutely critical -- you must be noticed. That means you must make good ads.

Dave Trott had a great piece about this a few days ago. As Bill Bernbach said - "If nobody notices your ad, everything else is academic."

There are plenty of sins we advertisers commit. But the most costly sin of all is to squander our money running invisible advertising.

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