Where There’s New Media Smoke, There’s Usually a Smoke Machine

I modified a JFK attributed quote for this title. But also thought another modification explains a lot about one of the biggest hassles in modern marketing:

Where there’s smoke, there’s usually deep pockets writing a check.

Marketers today are pummeled with smoke — especially about new media, brand love, and about big data. And there’s a reason the smoke is so thick… There’s a set of big companies, venture startups, and VCs that think they can make big money by selling these ideas. And that opens their checkbooks wide.

But just because the checkbook is open doesn’t mean they’re selling anything important. All it means is that a pile of VENDORS stand to make big money if they can only convince you that what they have is important. (Most often they’re the ONLY ones making money through the idea.)
Read more of this post

Cursed by Checkbox Video

You know the videos I mean – the ones made so the agency can check the box “Cool video complete”. (Of course, many of them aren’t very cool – at least to consumers. But we’ll hold off on that discussion.)

Checkbox work has always been a curse. Before it was video (back in the dark ages of the 1970s and 1980s) it was the checkbox slide show. When I was a client shopping for supercomputers in the 1980s aerospace business, if the salesman brought the slide show or video I’d skip the meeting. My team had learned that these checkbox presentations never communicated what mattered as we evaluated computers.

That was then and this is now. And what used to be merely dull and boring has exploded in that way only the web can make things explode… (It’s amazing how fast bad marketing choices replicate across the web.)
Read more of this post

Is Disruption the Most Important Model for Innovation?

The theory of “Disruptive Innovation” is an idea that has come to dominate business. Why? Business pundits and consultants would tell us it points the way to the strongest business success. iStock_000017829020Medium

Except I think there’s a different truth. The thing the disruption theory does most reliably is give you a great way to sell your business to funding sources, to the press (who LOVE a great disruption story), or to that narrow niche of customers who passionately hate the “old ways” and don’t care if the new way is really any better. The theory of disruption is even being used to sell changes designed for wholesale destruction of our public school system in the US (with an odd leap of faith hoping that whatever replaces it will be better). (More on schools here.)

Using theory to promote an idea isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But truth is important for businesses to succeed. Is there really a strong connection between disruption and long term success? That’s far more tenuous. At least that had been my growing sense of the theory.

And now I see that battle has been joined on exactly this issue. Writer and Harvard American History professor Jill Lepore fired the first shot with an excellent article in The New Yorker (“What the Theory of ‘Distruptive Innovation’ Gets Wrong”).
Read more of this post

Big Data. Big Promise. Big Caution.

Big Data imageBig data claims to be the new salvation for all businesses. Because, we’re told, big data will discover amazing new truths. Time will tell.

But in the meantime, most big promises should also be accompanied by big cautions. Which one’s are most important as we approach big data? Recently, on the Financial Times website, Tim Harford wrote a blog post on the topic: Big Data: are we making a big mistake. It is one of the few really thoughtful big data discussions we’ve come across in a while.
Read more of this post

Using Response Measured Advertising in an OmniChannel World

I’ve spent my advertising career in the most immediately measurable of TV disciplines…direct response television. Through that career I’ve seen the tremendous economic power that DRTV offers. Used in the right situation, DRTV delivers far more economic impact (including brand value) than traditional TV.

At the same time…in contradictions we find truth. And here’s the response contradiction.

Response measurements are exceptionally powerful at helping make campaigns more effective.

But if response becomes your ONLY focus, campaigns become less effective.

How’s that happen? We must remember that even the best metrics (response, audiences, targeting, etc.) can never measure the total impact of a TV campaign. They are helpful guides but don’t tell the entire story.

So it’s important to respect the numbers for the extraordinary help they offer as we make media dollars go further (up to 4x further). And it’s important to respect that response numbers are only one window in to the impact of our work.

This reality doesn’t only apply to DRTV. It applies to online ads (especially), direct mail, catalogs, search, and many more areas where we are able to measure response.

Here’s a recent article I called “Seeing the Forest Despite the Trees” (link here) that appeared Response Magazine’s December 2013 edition. It digs deeper into how to work with response measured media in the highly (and extraordinarily profitable) market you enter when your product is sold through the omni-channel world of phone, web, and retail store.

It’s no surprise to find DR marketers obsessed with response to the exclusion of all other reality. But it has been a surprise to find that experienced audience measured advertisers also too quickly lose sight of the fact that response measurements are indicators – but not the whole story.

It’s surprising because many of these are advertisers who have lived in a world their entire careers where they had NO measurement of response and where impact is projected by guys in the back room with pointy hats and crystal balls reading Nielsen reports. (For clarity: I do love audience numbers. But while there’s tremendous learning to be found in audience measurement, projecting sales impact based on audience remains an area for alchemists.)

So embrace response measurement for what it is: An extraordinary measurement that can help us spend client media money far more efficiently. And then lets use that measurement to drive campaigns where the total impact surprises us all.

Copyright 2014 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved.

Cable Cutting & Self Righteous Attacks on TV

I get pretty miffed when the “cable cutter” enthusiasts try to argue that online video will drag society out of the depths of depravity found in TV programming.

After all, what are most teens watching online? You can bet it’s NOT Masterpiece Theater or Nature. More likely they’re watching video’s of guys becoming eunuch’s when skateboard tricks land them on handrails.

This attack in TV is nothing new. I remember making it a few times in youthful enthusiasm while in college. Still, proponents of new media too often sound like sci-fi books — promising a “glorious future” where the internet changes mankind. (They are, of course, merely the latest to claim to remake humanity in thousands of years of such movements.) Read more of this post

GoogleTV: “More Returns than Sales” (Logitech)

I was skeptical of GoogleTV. It seemed Google fell prey to corporate hubris – believing they could build anything and make the marketplace think it’s valuable.

And from the start Google revealed they had no coherent strategy to deliver value to consumers. Instead, announcements made it clear they were in a desperate ploy to steal ad revenue away from traditional TV. Read more of this post

How is it that Television Keeps Getting MORE Vital, Not Less? (Including Some Surprising Thoughts from Jobs.)

There’s something in the water of technology centers in the US that drives an idea that digital media always means revolution. It’s been there a very, very long time. And it makes pretty outrageous claims about technology’s impact.

But when it comes to “revolution”, more often than not, human reality keeps getting in the way. Nowhere is this more true than with the digirati myth that TV will diminish and fade into the past.
Read more of this post

When Brands Claim to “Engage” Online, Do They Really Engage Consumers?

Through the late 1990’s, the idea of “engaging” consumers became one holy grail of advertising. What agencies were seeking were ways to communicate with consumers as they “leaned forward” as opposed to “laying back” (e.g as couch potatoes).

And then, social media arrived. And the gentle idea of better engaging consumers with our advertising transformed into a movement seeking passionate consumer love affairs – and the emergence of Social Media’s claim to enable those affairs.

Is Online Brand Engagement a Myth? Read more of this post

Does Web Targeting Live Up to the Hype?

Since the late 1990’s we’ve been promised an amazing jump in advertising effectiveness from targeting only possible online. Initially, it was the claim to “know who the individuals are”. Today, it’s become “we track them and know everything about them”.

Truth is, online targeting hasn’t delivered, but the idea remains prominent. Part of the reason was summarized today in an excellent post by Byron Sharp discussing a recent HBR “advertorial” for McKinsey. (Link here.) Sharp criticized them, in part, because “there is an in-built assumption that hitting someone at the moment when they are thinking about the brand/category is the only advertising that works.”

Seems like such a smart idea. Except, let’s add reality. Any salesman knows that if we wait for the “best point” to ask for the order, we won’t sell much. At the same time if we always ask for the order at the worst time, we will never make money. In a way, traditional media planning walks this middle line focusing a reasonable amount, but casting a wide enough net to get the surprise purchasers.

The Digerati Code. But the Digerati ignore this reality and wholly embrace the assumption, leading to the following hypothesis:

Given a specific product or brand…

1. We CAN use digital tracking to determine points in time when consumers are most receptive to receiving ads about that product or brand.
2. Once we detect when they are most receptive, we CAN present ads that hit them at that most receptive time.
3. When ads are presented in this way their effectiveness is dramatically higher than using traditional methods.

If any of these three are wrong, we’ll never locate the Holy Graal of digital marketing.

What Does Experience Show? There has been no general increase in marketing dollar effectiveness as a result of digital efforts. And digital response rates (CTR’s) are pathetic while online CPM’s remain a fraction of what traditional media is able to demand.

There seem to be two realities:

There are times when online targeting pays out exceptionally – usually for highly targeted direct response campaigns. My guess is that constant low cost testing helps them figure out, of the target criteria available, which ones are connected to response. But brand campaigns don’t have this luxury.

So broader brand efforts haven’t seen a dramatic increase in ad dollar effectiveness. In fact, many campaigns curtail their online spending because there are simply too few places to spend money that achieve acceptable results. (For example, Pepsi and Best Buy have both recently redirected media funds away from digital and back to traditional. Apple has always succeeded with heavy traditional spending and minimal digital spending.)

Is Targeting Fundamentally Flawed? My sense today is that there’s a big problem matching market to online variables in a way that generates impact. Because online variable must be limited.

Assume Criteria List A tells us what makes a good target consumer. Unfortunately, if you have defined your audience well, nobody’s tracking what’s important in your list.

Because, in truth, Criteria List B is what is actually tracked.

But hoping to cross this gap, some digerati take “B” and expand it to Criteria List C using database correlation.

SO, this leads to three questions:
1. Can we effectively reach our audience “A” when we only have “B”? Not really.
2. How accurate are the projections in “C”? Probably not very accurate.
3. So can we reach “A” when we add the projections “C”? Probably not.

So, it turns out that online buying is pretty much just like buying TV with Nielsen rating data – just with some additional criteria. But “more” criteria doesn’t mean “the important” criteria. What we’d really like to know is predisposition to absorb some of what we say and have that cause action in the future.

There’s nothing wrong with this situation – TV has succeeded for years with Nielsen’s. But what happened to the consumer targeting nirvana we were promised?

Watch Out for VC Hype. VC’s know this theory is a clever way to try to increase value for their ventures. Also, this theory is one of the few really unique things the digerati can claim.

Even worse, ad agencies are suckers for this theory – probably due to a common agency disease I’ll call “Nielsen frustration”. (This is the tendency to blame weaknesses in Nielsen audience measurements for the fact your ads didn’t work. “If only the RIGHT consumers had seen our rats dumpster diving for sandwiches people would have bought the sandwiches in droves…”.)

That’s all nice. But online behavioral targeting hasn’t shown huge results in practice. Even worse, the theory has hung around for a decade without dramatically changing results. How much longer should we wait?

Until proof arrives, it seems best to conclude that online targeting is nice, but no magic pill.

Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved