The Advertising Model Isn’t Broken

There has been a lot of talk over the past 5 years specifically about how the “Advertising model is broken” and how we need to be looking for a way to fix it. Post after post after post have spoken about how we are bombarding the consumer with too many messages, how new tactics have reeked of desperation and how agencies aren’t adapting quickly enough.

It is all bullshit. The problem is not that the model is broken, the problem is that there is a model.

Every brief is different. Every challenge has a different solution so why does a model exist?

Well for a few very wrong reasons.

  1. Agency Remuneration – This is the root of all evil. The compensation models are generally based on either commission (% of production and/or % of media spend), a retainer which is generally tied to the clients total budget for the year among other variables or it is based on project work that is tied to agency hours at a set rate. Now, this is a big part of the problem because agencies are in the business of making money. Would you pitch a unique idea with very little media spend or production to your clients knowing you are throwing a ton of revenue out the window? If you are being paid on the project basis what is your incentive to recommend an idea like the DC Snowboard park viral video campaign where there was zero spent on media and the majority of the money would have been sent out of the agency to vendors.
  2. Marketers aversion to risk – Risk should be the favourite 4-letter word of all marketers. Instead it is safe. Last time I checked marketing at it’s best is an application of art, sociology, social sciences, psychology, economics, technology, mathematics and common sense. To me this means understand your target, product, market, competition, brand and how you can use this information to analyze, anticipate and satisfy customers profitably. Nothing about this says safe. To analyze you must take a risk. To anticipate you must take a risk. To satisfy you must take a risk.

    If you look at data and analyze it you take a risk by putting forth your recommendation about what you think the data says and how you should use it. Data analysis is a science and science is marriage of observation and experimentation. In our case the observation must inform the experimentation and the predicted outcomes. What marketers should do everyday is experimentation informed by their observation of art, sociology, social sciences, psychology, economics, technology mathematics and common sense.

    I hope I don’t need to explain why the marketing task of anticipation means risk is involved. Finally, without risk how can you satisfy? Along with answering a need, human nature desires something new, unique, refreshing and I will argue simple that meets expectations to be satisfied.

    At every step of a marketers job they are faced with and required to deal with risk effectively. A model makes them feel safe. Asking for and receiving the expected is easy and their job is protected. I wish the definition of marketing was “take a risk”. The opposite of risk in todays business world is not safe, but obsolescence.

  3. Historical Influence – My first example would be the fact that marketers, media agencies and CFO’s follow media to production percentages. What if an unbelievable idea was presented that that included a TV commercial that would only run once, drive to web where an immersive and engaging experience was delivered that met the communication and business objectives? Would it be approved if media to production was 1:1 or 0.5:1? Going back to the Advertising model historically campaigns would be required to include (based on budget) TV first, Newspaper second, then radio, then OOH, then maybe magazine, online display if money is still around, possibly search or email and if they are targeting youth most likely social media (even though you can target any demo through it).

There are other issues such as a lack of commitment to become better at marketing and advertising by organizations that market, agencies and our education systems. But deeper even is the indifference that has plagued the average consumer. Consumers have become accustomed to allowing their favourite commercial to be interrupted by shit commercials, to accepting Junk Mail as a necessary evil, to supporting companies that destroy beautiful urban landscapes with horrible clutter and continue to purchase from these offenders.

We probably will never find the marketing/advertising utopia some of us dream of but hopefully sometime the industry will wake-up and see that the model is not broken, it is not necessary.

And yes I used MS Paint on the image above. I was feeling old school.

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