Last week, USA TODAY published columnist Michael Wolff's article, “Whatever Happened To Advertising?”
In the article, Wolff lamented about the changing world of ad men, the move from creative to quantitative and the impact of technology (like the Internet) on advertising.
I’d like to offer a different perspective, one that puts the changes and the solution directly on our shoulders. And when I say “our,” I'm not referring to the ad agencies or the advertisers, but rather the consumers.
Yes, we decided to embrace DVRs so we wouldn’t have to watch commercials. We moved from terrestrial radio to satellite radio so we wouldn’t have to listen to interruptions. We downloaded ad blocker so we wouldn’t have our Web experience cluttered with ads. We stopped reading direct mail and signed up for the "Do Not Call" list.
We all made conscious decisions to embrace technology that allowed us to stop being interrupted with unwanted ads. Buyer behavior has changed dramatically and continues to do so. Business models, like newspapers, magazines and radio networks, are challenged to make money as revenue from ads continues to drop.
So, how has the ad industry responded to the dramatic change in buyer behavior and the corresponding economics? Perhaps what’s most shocking is that it looks like no one has responded at all.
Ad agencies continue to produce interruptive ads. They continue to use the same techniques. They continue to hope that people will miraculously start paying attention. Ad outlets have also failed to respond. They continue to push impression-based ads as if they are unable to adjust their businesses to take advantage of the dramatic shift in their industry.
Mr. Wolff and I have a common interest: Both of us want to protect the creative integrity of the community and its ability to contribute to business growth. As the president of a marketing agency, it’s in my best interest to figure out how to adapt my business to take advantage of the changing consumer behaviors.
I had the pleasure of working for Hal Rosenbluth, CEO of Rosenbluth International, who once told me, “You have to create the businesses that could ultimately put you out of business.” That statement stuck with me. Today, the ad community has to stop ignoring the obvious change in the way people interact with brands and come up with solutions that embrace today’s buyer behavior.
But, this article isn’t about wanting things to be different; it's about what we’re doing to make it different.
What Agencies Need To Be Doing
Eventually, clients are going to stop wanting ads and start asking for results. This is already happening in the small to medium-sized business segment. They can’t afford to do “get your name out there” advertising, so they’re demanding that their investment in marketing produces quantifiable results.
Out of this demand, inbound marketing was born. Inbound forces you to connect all of the elements of your marketing, and it enforces a quantifiable element that demands each part of your campaign to deliver results.
Today, the agency landscape is undergoing a shift. There remains a wide variety of traditional ad agencies. There are a lot of new digital agencies, who simply produce digital ads. There are many agencies who call themselves inbound agencies, but they really do what they’ve always done: create content, do PR, work on branding or build websites.
There is also a new kind of agency: the real inbound marketing agency. These very successful boutique agencies deliver inbound campaigns for businesses of all sizes. They’ve learned how to execute inbound marketing programs in a way that drives growth for their clients and for their agencies.
By the way, this doesn’t mean creative has to die to support inbound. Creative and quantitative tactics live together at our agency every single day. I can tell you that without solid creative, compelling messaging and sound marketing strategy, any inbound program is going to struggle.
What Advertising Properties Need To Be Doing
In short, stop hoping that your clients don’t realize your impression-based revenue model is flawed. Why should clients pay based on a number that is inflated, inaccurate and completely irrelevant to their business performance?
What you should be excited about is that, today, the technology exists to provide your clients with a performance-based pay model that could potentially earn your magazine, radio network or TV program even more money. Your clients would be happier, you would be happier, and your audiences would be happier. Everyone wins.
In our Web-based magazine, 2Inbound, we’re testing a 100% performance-based ad model. Clients are paying ONLY for new visitors driven to their website and for leads generated for their businesses. There are other businesses, agencies and technologies testing similar concepts, and the results have been wildly successful.
What Businesses Need To Be Doing
It’s the businesses that ultimately decide how providers respond to the changes taking place. Today, big brands with big budgets are comfortable spending their company’s money on interruptive tactics that deliver little or no return. At best, you might be able to argue that there is a return in the form of brand equity, but we’re talking about real return – in the form of revenue.
Once these companies realize that there are alternatives to the interruptive stuff they’re doing today, once they realize that they don’t have to rent an audience but must actually earn their audience’s attention – there is going to be a great shift in allocating money away from traditional tactics and traditional agencies and toward inbound tactics and inbound marketing agencies who know how to execute inbound campaigns.
CEOs, business owners and progressive marketing executives can move this evolution along by challenging their current agencies to commit to and deliver real revenue growth as a direct result of their investments. Ask their agencies for creative solutions that don’t interrupt but engage with their target market. Ask them to come up with ways to educate, nurture and create remarkable experiences for their prospects and customers.
Reach and frequency are dead. We, the consumers, have forced the world to change. You have to evolve or run the risk of suffering the same fate as the rotary phone, record album and VCR.
Start Today Tip – The best advice I could give you today is that no matter what your role is in this ecosystem, you have to start changing now. If you’re an agency, start looking at how to add inbound to your portfolio of services. If you sell advertising, start looking at performance-based revenue models. If you’re a business, start demanding that your agency or your partners step up and take responsibility for helping your business grow its revenue.
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