pmazzotta 3:04 pm on Apr 26, 2012 Reply  

So I’m sitting around with clearly too much time on my hands, and a colleague suggests: “Hey Patrick, instead of looking pretty [which I was] why don’t you write something up for the company blog?” “Fair enough,” I say, “like what?” “Here, check out this link then tell us what you think.”

Little did I know this was a full-on plot to the ultimate intra-office trolling. He knew I couldn’t watch that video without getting really pumped about this topic.

The Skinny

Basically, the video was produced as a thought-exercise to spark discussion on the growth and adaption of marketing in the face of drastic changes to what will be tomorrow’s primary demographic. It was made for an industry conference, and then shared online. The precept proposed is that traditional approaches to marketing won’t work anymore because the targets just won’t care (I’d argue that it’s already started today).

Let’s talk about that a bit. To me, this just makes sense. At best, I’ve always seen advertisements as really video-based press releases, hardly interesting if I’m not already in the market for something, and rarely persuasive. Now I know I don’t represent John Q Public, but more and more I notice this sentiment spreading. More people PVR and skip their commercials – and the idea is not new. Back in the 90’s my dad bought the family a VHS machine that tagged the start/end time of commercials and automatically fast-forwarded them for all TV recordings. Not a single body in my five-person household watched television as it aired, and we all praised the auto-skip feature for commercials.

So what does it mean?

Implication

Companies spend millions (billions cumulatively) for ad spots to play the numbers game. To chance or gamble that the viewership their ratings suggest they’ll reach won’t be going to grab a sandwich or drink, or won’t be fast-forwarding their entire efforts. And for a time, this was all that was available, so I guess we can say “you take what you can get”. The bottom line is that guesswork is just not good enough when consumers/clients are more dollar-conscious and expect high value/cost ratios. Radio and television still hold strong viewership numbers, but the down time between segments is losing traction.

So that’s what the video talks about. It comes down to the push vs. pull ideology, and throughout the whole video I get subliminal-like flashes of Gary Vaynerchuk in my peripherals (related to his book The Thank You Economy). I’m a busy guy, and my time is extremely valuable to me. Even if market forces say that I’m overvaluing my time, it’s still my own evaluation that drives what does and doesn’t get my attention (just like that ugly sweater or pair of shoes you won’t get rid of despite how much others tell you it’s garbage or time to trade up). I want value. I want meaning. I want your ad to be more than interesting – today (not waiting for tomorrow) your advertisements need to be convenient and/or helpful to me in a practical and applicable way.

Analytics. Yes, I wasn’t going to rant on ads all day. What does it mean to apply numbers and values to this stuff? When tools, code snippets, or free rides to the airport become the standard in advertising mediums, how do you value and track it? Obviously you have to, otherwise you’re not spending your money efficiently, which drives up operating costs, which in turn either eat at your margins or prices your products/services higher than the competition. It’s not rocket science, but it’s still tricky business.

The answer is cross-channel integration. It’s the independent tracking of “things” and pulling those results into a centralized and integrated intelligence system that will make things whole. It is also not cutting corners on your implementation. If you’ve got to imbed micro-wireless tracking devices in the shoes you develop, then do it. Because when those kids in the video are my age, they will hold you ransom for their attention, and get your business back for all the years you’ve been holding my TV shows ransom with your ads… Remember, you aren’t just paying for those numbers, you’re paying for the insight those numbers give you, and the strategic edge you gain from that insight the next time you make corporate decisions.

This is a big problem today, and I think that we’re going to see the pain become more evident in the years to come. Analytics and business intelligence operations are often “mean well” projects in companies that just don’t get the priority they need. It’s so easy for business drivers and executives to deprioritize an analytical initiative because they can substitute their own knowledge and experience and get “close enough” results.

The big take away from this video, though, is that as the gaps between generations widen (in culture, interests, and thought processes) leaders will become more dangerous and more likely to make critical errors in their assumptions or “gut feelings”. And let’s face it – if some 50 or 60 year old executive sitting in a penthouse office thinks they can design an ad campaign to target me without gauging or measuring me in some way, then they aren’t just making an assumption – they are throwing their money away.

That’s the way it is right now. Asking around, I’m not as much of an outlier as some marketing agencies want to believe. It may be anecdotal, but most people I talk to tend to follow my line of thinking.

At the end of the day, you can’t do better if you can’t measure the results. Thus we come back to analytics, intelligence, and lots of modeling (predictive, historic, and real-time).

There are a LOT of moving parts in this discussion. Some (not all) factors that go into trying to identify the next shift in marketing thinking:

  • The shift in society to stronger support of individualism
  • Higher standards for education and intellectual performance
  • More demanding china job markets
  • More technology wholesale – in both business and personal lives

Marketing won’t go away, but it will change. It’ll mature, and come to understand all these forces at play. It’s not even a question at this point. The only question really is who will be adapting first and fastest (and who’s going out of business because they were too slow).

The Wrap-up

Western economics dictates that organizations have to adapt to survive. At the end of the day, that’s all this video was trying to suggest, and I’m just highlighting that analysts need to be ready for it. It’s important, it’s necessary, and it’s inevitable. If you’re an analyst and you can only do one thing (i.e. GA or phone metrics) then you better be damn good at it. Best of breed good, because people like me (multi-disciplinary background with a knack for data integration) are going to smoke you out of your office. By the time I retire, cross channel won’t even be a thing people talk about – just like no one is talking about wheels solving their mobility problems (vacuum cleaners, strollers, shopping carts, etc.). It’s all just expected.