Bridge the Gap

The ANA came out with a report stating that AdLand is in trouble due to the disconnect between marketing education and the marketing profession.

I couldn’t agree more. The report even caused me to write this Business2Community article about my experience with the disconnect.

It also made me think- what small part can I contribute to assist marketing educators in bringing the latest and greatest in the marketing world to the classroom?

Content, obviously.

So that’s my new goal with AdLand Heroes- bringing fresh, curated content to this blog in order to share on Twitter and beyond, with the hopes that marketing educators would not only find it useful, but easily digestible for their students, whether it is high school or higher education.

 

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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.

 

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.

“Desirable Difficulty” And Why We Should Care

First, what does the phrase, “desirable difficulty” even mean?

The phrase comes from the education and psychology world. It suggests that if we make encoding, that is, interpreting information from one form into another, a little harder for the learner, then the learner will force themselves to start processes in their brains that will encourage long-term retention and learning.

It makes sense. We as humans tend to remember concepts that we really worked hard on; items and information we struggled to retain or learn but finally ‘getting it’.

Sure, this is important for teachers and psychologists to know, but why do we as marketing professionals bring this up?

It’s simple- it deals with consumer behavior.

When businesses and brands prepare something new for consumers, the common thought is to make it as simple and easy as possible. The easier the consumer can understand and use the product, the better product adoption is going to be.

And in a sense, that’s true. But we argue, though adoption for a simple and easy product is good, we believe that adding a little bit of difficulty to ‘product mastery’ could possibly increase the brand’s chances of creating loyal customers.

How so?

An easy and simple product doesn’t provide any real reason for the consumer to continue to use the product. Yes, it lowers the switching costs and risks for the consumer, but it doesn’t instill any real ownership or work for the consumer to consider the easy and simple product as valuable.

But, imagine if the product or brand made it just a little difficult for the consumer to use the product, getting the consumer to think about how to get the full use of it. Not too hard for the consumer to opt for the Path of Least Resistance route, but hard enough to create the ‘Ikea Effect’ Dan Ariely and other behavioral economists have discussed in detail.

Some examples for adding Desirable Difficulty-

-Making the consumer put the product together
-Having the consumer go through a series of steps to activate the product
-Forcing the consumer to give the product a name, label or number
-Having the consumer pass a test or tutorial before using (short, 3-5 question quiz)
-Intentionally making the UX a little hard to navigate

Should all brands and products do this? By no means. Commodities cannot survive with this strategy, but some products, especially in the digital and mobile realm, could reap significant results with this strategy.

Just something to think about.

Will the U.S. Actually Pass the Ad Tax?

There has been plenty of speculation that the U.S. Congress, amid a presidential election, may try to push through legislation that will make them popular amongst their constituents.

Unfortunately attacking the ad industry ranks near the top of the list.

In case you are not aware, advertising costs incurred by businesses and corporations in the United States are not taxed, because it is- and rightfully so- considered as a cost of doing business.

But now, more than a few legislators want to take that classification away. Why? We haven’t been able to find a legitimate reason. Perhaps it is due to advertising being a multi-billion dollar industry? Or perhaps it would prove to consumer advocacy groups that legislators can be “tough” on business?

Who knows the reason why, but the fact remains that the adding of this particular tax on business is not a good idea.

There are dozens of reasons why, with the biggest one being that it will hurt smaller businesses’ ability to compete. With a tax on advertising, these SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) have even FEWER funds to compete against the big dogs.

We agree that businesses should pay more into the tax system. And we are hoping more advertising professionals step up to the negotiation table to figure out a better alternative.