Sunday, November 23, 2014

Bob Says "Social Media Marketing Is Worthless"

Bob Hoffman does an entertaining talk called 'The Golden Age Of Bullshit.'

It's about how, in his opinion, social media doesn't work and we should mostly just make TV ads.

This blog post isn't about whether he's right or wrong. (Though for what it's worth, I think he's wrong).

What I want to say here is that even if Hoffman were right, it would be our duty to make him wrong.

Bob was cock-a-hoop last week, because he found a research report which concludes, according to his post on The Ad Contrarian, that "social media marketing on Facebook and Twitter is substantially worthless." 

Bob's writing is full of such zingers; here's another: "As an advertising medium, the web is like communism. It's never very good right now, but it's always going to be great some day."

Bob is now making his living from 'debunking' social media.

He often compares social media practitioners to snake-oil salesmen, which is a bit harsh. It's an evolving medium - the frontier of commercial communications - and you're always going to get a few shysters on any frontier.

But let's leave aside the occasional shyster. Let's leave aside the occasional gloomy research report.

Instead, let me lay a fact on you:

Twelve per cent of Australians' entire media consumption today, is Facebook.


That - to me - is an absolutely staggering, world-changing figure.

We just have to make it work, people.

We just have to.

Every time a new medium is invented, it takes the ad industry a little while to crack the code, and figure out the best way to make advertising for it. Ever seen the first TV ads? They were crap. But eventually, we managed to make TV effective as an advertising vehicle.

Bob reckons social media advertising doesn't work. I disagree with him.

But as I said at the beginning... if Bob IS right, we need to make him wrong.  

Monday, November 17, 2014

Manifesto Ads: Worthwhile Exercise, Or Spawn Of The Devil?

The phrase 'manifesto ad' seems to make Creatives want to jump out of a window.

Even a brief that alludes to a Client wanting to discuss their values will have teams exploding with righteous rage: "For Christ's sake, it sounds like they want a bloody manifesto ad!"

But is this type of ad unfairly maligned?

It's true they tend to follow a formula. Normally either "Here's to..." as in "Here's to the crazy ones" or "We're for..." as in "We're for dogs."  Or you can take an abstract noun and write an essay about it (see example above).

And Creatives hate formulas.

But they don't have to be done in a formulaic way. Chipotle's last two Super Bowl ads were essentially manifestos, as was Honda's famous "Hate something, change something" epic.

We really should just be grateful that we're getting to make a brand ad for once.

The term 'brand ad' seems to have become a dirty word in marketing circles - they're viewed as fluffy and self-indulgent. I've even seen one marketer quoted as proudly saying he would "never" make a brand ad. This is despite the excellent work by Simon Sinek in describing how people "don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it."

And it's despite our understanding that you have to pay attention to every stage of the purchase funnel. (I always feel that brands who only do retail advertising, and no brand advertising, are failing to stoke desire for their product, and thus end up communicating to people "Hey, you know this product you don't want? It's really cheap!")

So manifesto ads should surely be welcomed not slated.

I think the key to making them interesting is in not just saying what you're for, but what you're against. That's where they get their energy. It's also the form's history. Take the manifesto of the Communist Party, for example. Those guys were livid. They were convinced that there's something wrong with capitalism, and they gave it a jolly good kicking. The same with the Futurists. They'd had it up to here with boring, traditional art. And that's what made their manifesto so exciting. If slightly loopy.

I reckon you can actually have a lot of fun with manifesto ads.

Confession time: I'm even enjoying the manifesto 'films' that we make for pitches nowadays.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

What In Heck Is The 'CVP', And Is It Safe To Ignore It?


 Advertising makes me laugh sometimes.

Just a couple of years ago, no one had heard of the CVP (Customer Value Proposition). Yet today, it's apparently the most vital tool in marketing.

It's as if astronomers suddenly announced a new planet - bigger than Jupiter - sitting right in the middle of our solar system, which had hitherto gone unnoticed.

Is that plausible?

For anyone who doesn't know, the Customer Value Proposition is an equation of the value that a buyer will derive from the product. For example, the CVP for the Smart car might be "All the safety and driveability you get in a regular car, but at a lower price and easier to park."

So does the CVP replace the USP?

In reality, the poor old USP went out the window a long time ago, and any brand that talks about being the biggest, the fastest etc nowadays just sounds like a snake oil manufacturer.

Next came the ESP (Emotional Selling Proposition) which was based around how a brand would make you feel. So Haagen-Dazs ice cream, for example, felt sexy.

The problem with both the USP and the ESP is that they ignore price, and they ignore all the other options a consumer has. The truth is, price comes into nearly every decision. As does an assessment of the alternatives. People don't just buy an ice-cream because it's the creamiest, or because it promises to make them feel sexy. They buy it when it offers those benefits at an acceptable price, and when there is no more compelling option available.

What the CVP captures is the real calculation that consumers are (perhaps unconsciously) performing in their heads.

What it's not is an advertising proposition. No one should be advertising an equation, for God's sake. Good advertising is single-minded.

But where the CVP can be really useful, is in pointing to what the proposition should be.

Either highlighting a strength on one side of the equation, or bolstering a weakness on the other.

Because with any purchase, there is always a trade-off. The manufacturer has to make a margin, so if he's going to charge you $100, he can't provide you with a product that's worth $100, he can only provide you with a product that's worth $70. Or alternatively, if you want a product that is worth $100, you are going to have to pay $130 for it.

For example, Aldi has great prices, but the products are not the high-quality brands you are used to. And L'Oreal makes great cosmetics, but they're not cheap.

From here, it's relatively easy to see what the advertising needs to be. 

Aldi has to reassure people that the products are actually pretty good. (See ad above). And L'Oreal has to tell you that you're worth it.

So that's my take on the CVP. It doesn't replace the proposition. But it can help us write the right one.

Are people talking about the CVP at your place? And do you think it's useful, or yet more meaningless jargon?

Monday, November 03, 2014

Is It Okay To Argue With Your Boss?

The hierarchy in ad agencies isn't quite as absolute as in the armed forces, but it's not far off.

We're all bright, friendly, 'cool' people... and yet our decision-making is surprisingly dictatorial.

But if you think about it, this does make sense.

In fields like engineering, medicine, and finance - where there are actual facts that can be brought to bear - it's possible to make an objective challenge.

But advertising is mostly subjective. Our debates are more like one person saying "I like tomatoes" and someone else says "I don't like tomatoes, I prefer avocados."

So someone's got to make the decision, and the person being paid to make the decision is your boss, and that's it.

In a previous agency I once got a dressing-down for being "too challenging."

My ECD flipped out because I was so convinced an idea was great, I came back to him with it three times. (Along with other ones). Incidentally this was quite hypocritical because he would often tell account teams to "go back and try again" when the Client hadn't bought something, but he didn't seem to like the approach when it was applied to him.

Yet if you don't argue with your boss at least a little bit, and don't put your point of view across even if it doesn't match his, you will be viewed as a passive, spineless, yes-person. That is not good.

So my conclusion is that it's actually essential to argue with your boss. But you have to do it carefully.

A good tip is to ask questions. For example, if your boss tells you to fill a wheelbarrow full of shit, you could ask "Do we worry that the smell could be a problem?"

Another option is to fill one wheelbarrow full of shit and a second one with beautiful plants, and present both.

Re-presenting the same idea? Yes, but it's like a murder trial. You can put the case back in front of the judge, by all means, but the second time around, you have to have new evidence. A new spin on it.

Anyway, that's my POV, but I'd be interested to get yours. Is it okay to argue with the boss where you work? Have you ever gotten into trouble for doing it, or do you have a way of arguing that you've found effective and would be willing to share?