Ads Won’t Go Away. So Now What?

Mostly everyone involved in intelligent conversation about marketing and advertising can arrive at the inevitable conclusion:

Advertising, regardless the medium, is here to stay.

That much is certain. What remains uncertain, is how the players doing the advertising continue to do it, and how the consumer is influenced by said advertising.

Though the conversations vary widely from AdLand totally disregarding the feelings of consumers, to brands still thinking crowd-sourcing ideas is a way to involve consumers and therefore create a loyal base.

We believe that between those two schools of thought, therein lies a balance.

Yes, we do believe that AdLand does an incredibly horrible job at not only gathering research and feedback from consumers, but using the data it collects to create simple and powerful advertising campaigns. There are some brands that do a terrific job, however those handful of brands and agencies are unable to speak on behalf the under-performing majority.

Yet, we would do our marketing colleagues a massive injustice if we didn’t declare an opinion we have repeatedly share for close to a decade- sometimes the consumer is just plain wrong. Yes, consumers can make bad decisions, make decisions based on irrelevant or misinformed information, or could even use (or intend to use) the product in a way it wasn’t intended. So if the consumer opinion is wrong or doesn’t reflect what the brand wants to do, it is no wonder that a brand or agency would junk the information it received.

So, now what?

Well, it depends. The rumbling within AdLand between the agencies and client-side marketers (brands) is only getting louder. The issue of gender discrimination in the advertising world is blowing up (with hopefully the ethnicity issue after) and those ‘thought leaders’ are falling from grace. It seems that AdLand needs to get its own house in order before it fixes how it operates.

So, it goes.

Sex, Race and Advertising

Talk about touchy subject.

There have been multiple stories about top advertising executives being excused from their positions due to their remarks- whether worded wrong or actually believed- about women and minorities in the industry.

The majority of the fervor deals with women not being treated fairly, while the lack of minority talent in AdLand continues to take the back seat of the bus.

The latest fall from grace has been Saatchi & Saatchi boss, Kevin Roberts. Yes, the lead behind “Lovemarks”, has left his spot due to some unfortunate wording about women in the industry and the following outrage. The board and holding company leaders had no choice to ask Roberts to leave, even though there could be some debate about exactly how he meant his words.

Unfortunately for Kevin, AdLand is, after all, an industry of wordsmiths. And participating in the conversation about women in AdLand without choosing your words carefully proved to be detrimental.

What then, are we going to discuss?

It is abundantly clear that AdLand has some issues when it comes to racial and gender equality. We are of the school that there is much more to gain on the racial end of the debate, but while the louder voices are of the gender debate, we might as well fight yet another battle worth fighting.

The ranks of the communications industry is filled with women, yet the leadership posts of AdLand are filled with a puzzling and disproportional amount of old, generally white, men. How come?

Yes AdLand, how come?

It’s about time that the AdLand mass is finally sick of this inequality. Let’s welcome this conversation with action and real change. Then, once action is started and the dust settles, we can finally address the race debate.

Then we’ll REALLY see some uncomfortable people.

ANA & Friends Release Guidelines for Media Transparency

The circus around media transparency and how open agencies and brands are to each other continues.

The latest includes a number of releases from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) along with marketing analytics company Ebiquity and its subsidiary, FirmDecisions.

The group did a couple of things. First, the parties released an additional report that reaffirmed the findings that the report earlier this summer done by K2 Intelligence suggested. The earlier report was a damning white paper that showed severe separation of ideals on both sides, agency and brand alike. The fact that the two sides are so far apart is puzzling. And because no one seems to have come up with a real solution, the ANA and company decided to step to the plate and see if their solutions could do the job. The second thing they did was create a series of “guidelines” to make sure both parties- again, agencies and brands- are operating on the same page. And they even went so far as to suggest creating a “chief media officer” who- we’d imagine- serve as a watchdog over the media selection and negotiation between brand, media company and agency.

Why stop there? ANA thought to also modify a contract template it received from the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers and are urging marketers across the nation to use it.

What’s in it? The same stuff that agencies have been pushing back on for the past decade. The contract restricts a lot of movement agencies and holding companies are used to having. It requires agencies and even holding companies to forfeit work with similar businesses. It allows marketers to not pay agencies up to 12 months, or “whatever is agreed upon in this Agreement.”

Since we’ve been working on this article and reading the 50 pages of fun the contract amounts to, we haven’t yet seen the agency world’s reaction. Chances are, it will be the same as usual.

It is clear that the guidelines and adoption of the contract template received no feedback or input from agency advocates. What a shame. Rebuilding trust and later transparency will require all hands on deck. Not just the brands.

We’ll just have to see what happens next.

 

Do More Outlets Promote Brand Recall?

As time passes, consumers are given additional ways to gather and analyze information about the world around them. The media landscape continues to change, and it seems that the final version of media ‘as we know it’ has yet to arrive.

AdLand is not the only industry having this conversation and dealing with the difficulty this transformation is bringing. Our industry cousin- the news industry- is facing similar issues.

The overall questions that we both aim to answer is if additional outlets of information actually make consumers more informed. If people are able to get news from newspapers, TV, radio, Twitter, Facebook, FlipBoard, podcasts and online TV, do they become more informed than those in the past? Likewise, if consumers can get product information and advertising some all those same outlets, will they be more apt to brand recall if we assume that we place our ads across the board?

Let’s first address the news dilemma.

There have been multiple studies done across the nation about the rate of news consumption, and how people feel about being informed. The results have been interesting. One study highlighted in the Freakonomics podcast “Why Do We Really Follow the News” suggested that the increased amount of outlets didn’t help create more informed people- it actually helped those news consumers to be able to weed out the outlets they didn’t like in order to focus mainly on the outlets that affirmed their views.

In short, people searched for outlets that supported their views and opinions.

If people search for outlets that support their views, and brands are repeatedly showing their face in those same outlets, shouldn’t the brand recall be positive?

As always, it depends.

As brands determine which outlets to use and how often to use them, we have to really take our consumer’s behaviors into account. If they are extremely active, and see our brand ALL the time, we could trigger brand fatigue and create the opposite effect- they may try to search for different brands.

The outlets should depend on the topics and issues being covered. If they are reading about mudslides in the areas tearing apart homes and communities, advertising your “MudRun 5K” might not be the best idea. But if your client is an insurance provider and offer 24/7 free consultation, that might be worth adding that to the programmatic campaign.

Do multiple outlets promote brand recall? In short, it is highly possible. If done right it can bode well for the brand. If done poorly, it can be a waste of money and could actually damage the brand equity one has already built.

 

Sparks Fly Over Media Transparency Report

For about a year now, there has been focus on media transparency between brands, agencies and media companies. The biggest issue at hand is that brands are concerned that they are not being told how their money is being spent, nor do they know exactly how much media they are buying.

This all stems from a talk from a notable advertising figure who claimed that “rebates”, money a media company gives back to an agency, has been going on in the industry for decades.

And the sirens in BrandLand went off.

So then, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s) created a joint task force to see what could be done to make sure the partnership stays honest.

At least, as honest as it can be.

That’s pretty much as amiable as it got.

Towards the end of January 2016, the 4A’s released a “Transparency Guiding Principles of Conduct” article, which it believed satisfied much of the arguments over transparency and ceasing the actions of rebates.

The ANA was not pleased. So much so, the ANA quickly demanded the 4A’s to remove all ANA association with the article.

The 4A’s aptly did so.

Now the good stuff. The ANA released the final report done by K2 Intelligence on the prevalence and scale of rebates and media transparency.

The 62-page report is, in short, pretty damning.

Naturally then, the 4A’s promptly parried with its own article saying how one-sided and shadowy the report is the day it was released.

The fact that the ANA and the 4A’s are going at each other only confirms the disconnect the K2 Intelligence team refers to at the end of its executive summary:

K2 found evidence of a fundamental disconnect in the advertising industry regarding the basic nature of the advertiser-agency relationship. In general, advertisers expressed a belief that their agencies were duty-bound to act in their best interest. They also believed that this obligation – essentially, in their view, a fiduciary duty – extends beyond the stated terms in their agency contracts. While some agency executives expressed similar beliefs, others told K2 that their relationship to advertisers was solely defined by the contract between the two parties.

After the 4A’s released its statement of disapproval, the Chairman of the ANA released a letter to the ANA membership defending the report, and countering the 4A’s opinions of the report.

It is about time we have a strong conversation about the client/agency relationship. Though people may view this as conflict, this can actually help the relationship grow stronger if the sides are willing to hear everything out.

Conflict isn’t a bad thing, unless we choose not to do anything about it.

So the ANA has this report, and the 4A’s has its Guiding Principles of Conduct. Based on the K2 report, it seems that we all have to take a step back and lay down a foundation.

First, when a brand and an agency work together, what behavior is expected?

Once that question is answered, then they can revisit their positions, and start ironing things out. Because it seems that the agency world believes that its hired to do the work, do the work well, and call it a day, while the brand world wants more commitment and wants to ‘see behind the curtain.’

If that’s the case, then no wonder there’s mistrust and the question of transparency. In this scenario, agencies don’t believe that transparency is part of the game, while brands are wondering when agencies are going to start playing.

It seems like the ANA and the 4A’s are on different pages. But now that they know that, they can start working towards a common goal.

Could an Ogilvy Find a Job in Today’s AdLand?

Imagine a 30-something businessman man walking into a FORTUNE 500 company. He wants a job in advertising.

Does he have advertising or marketing experience? Sort of. Does working door-to-door sales count?

Does he have a degree in advertising or marketing? Nope, didn’t finish his studies at Oxford.

But his brother works at an agency…is that good enough?

Sadly, if this same scenario happened in 2016, we probably would not even hear the name of Ogilvy. Thank goodness he came of age in the 1930s.

The barriers of entry for advertising and marketing professionals in AdLand are confusing. With the ability for anyone to engage in some sort of marketing, it is certainly difficult to make a reputable living.

Also, with all the bad advertising out there, one would think that there are no real barriers for good professionals to overcome.

Think again.

AdLand, these days, are not very fond of outsiders. And that’s a shame, for when we look back through the decades, it has been those outsiders who have helped spurn the growth, change and prosperity of creative thinking and advertising. With AdLand shutting its doors on people with moderate or little experience, or refusing to provide opportunity for professionals who were successful elsewhere, it is sealing its own demise.

Yes, we understand that the ‘old guard’ can learn new techniques. There’s no question about that. But the way we do business and even think of business is changing, while AdLand is not. Our industry needs to pick it up in order to stay relevant and attract quality talent.

Our Suggestions:
1) Remove the “years of required experience”
We understand that in the past, it was thought that people had to have a specific amount of time to understand an industry, position, and what have you. But in the past, people did not have the amount of technology and information at their fingertips. Training, learning and on-the-job training is the best its ever been. You want to search for understanding and comprehension; a 3-year pro may have just as many contacts and have just as much insight as a 10-year pro. Give them both an open ear.

2) Be more open to diverse backgrounds
AdLand sucks these days at looking at people coming from different industries and disciplines. Perhaps it is the risk factor- because these people are supposed to contribute immediately and successfully, somebody not “matching the keyword search on the recruiting site” may not excel.

Though we understand, but the thinking is misguided.

If we are looking to fill a marketing manager position, and someone with a sales background and someone with a psychology background both apply, which one would you look at first?  Obviously in the LAME keyword search, the salesperson is going to look better.

But you can teach someone to sell. It’s harder to teach someone to examine how and why people think. We’re going with the psychology person. When we look at consumer behavior and consumer intent, that’s going to improve our marketing efforts. Not just a good salesperson.

3) STOP Relying on Keyword Searches!! 
Big brands are using keyword searches in resumes as a screening process for interviews. They want to make sure that the resume matches the job description. Though that’s fair, as more professionals learn that, guess what?

Professionals will simply copy and paste the job description in the resume, and modify it to make sure they still highlight what they’ve done. How’s that for unintended consequences?

Human resources need to treat their human capital like people. And you know, actually read stuff.

Well, those are our suggestions. Hope you enjoyed them.

 

Advertising on Jerseys- Could Be Worse

Everyone has been waiting for it,and the shoe finally dropped- late last April the news came that the NBA will sell advertising space on jerseys starting in the 2017 season. The space, not larger than six square inches on the jersey, is estimated to bring in over a hundred million dollars of additional revenue to the basketball league.

But, is this such a big deal?

Perhaps it is a big deal in the United States. Internationally, sports teams have been exposed to this model for decades. People call this commercialization, others call it ad-saturation, and others are just plain unhappy with it.

It is interesting then, to encourage those against this idea to entertain other ways businesses can boost revenues. Teams could raise ticket prices, raise concession stand prices, raise parking prices, raise merchandise prices, and even charge more for other items.

Oh wait, but those options force the consumer to pay. This additional source of revenue through advertising, does not force the consumer to pay anything upfront.

In that case, the better deal IS the advertising on the jerseys.

Consumers will get used to it, as they always do.

 

Industry as Strong as Our Weakest Colleague

We got the title of this post from a line we wrote in post early on in our role as Lead Blogger for Beyond Madison Avenue.

Looking at it again, it rings truer now than ever before.

We appropriated it to AdLand from its original, sports environment. A football team, soccer team,track team, are all as strong as its weakest teammate, area, or event. Instead of focusing on the strengths, we examine how our vulnerabilities affect our chances of victory.

Likewise in advertising, if our victory is winning over the public, our vulnerability includes those practitioners who lack the sufficient education, reasoning and experience necessary to do the industry justice.

What can AdLand do? The barriers to entry for advertising are much lower than the medical, legal, and engineering practices.

Yet, out of those, advertising garners the most attention from buyers, whether consumer or industrial.

Getting degrees in the practice is one thing, and passing exams administered from the AMA, IABC and the like are another. It still isn’t enough.

We can continue to rely on basic free enterprise principles and hope that the weak ones are phased out naturally. But, if history holds true, those principles do not hold up.

We welcome any suggestions you all might have in fixing AdLand’s weakest link. We’ll revisit this topic soon.