Ad World Lessons Learned in 2019 to Take Into the New Year

By The Cog Blog Archives
Cover image for  article: Ad World Lessons Learned in 2019 to Take Into the New Year

It's traditional to start the first post of the New Year with predictions for the year ahead. It's inevitable that a few of these will come true (on the basis that even a stopped clock is right twice a day), and equally inevitable that most will never happen.

It's traditional to start the first post of the New Year with predictions for the year ahead. It's inevitable that a few of these will come true (on the basis that even a stopped clock is right twice a day), and equally inevitable that most will never happen.

So, as the Cog Blog enters its seventh year, we're going to steer clear of any predictions — especially those with any trackable numbers attached to them. Rather, we are going to look back at what we've learned throughout 2019 and cogitate on how we take those lessons forward into 2020.

Lesson 1: The advertising world did exist before the advent of online media forms. Hard to believe, I know, but the lessons of the past are remarkably useful, and this will, no doubt, continue to be the case in 2020.

For example, reach matters. Excessive frequency can be irritating and hugely counter-productive. Trying to convince the same person who has just bought your goods to buy them again might work if you happen to be selling beans, but doesn't work for selling saucepans (you may correctly assume I'm writing on the basis of personal experience).

Lesson 2: Machines are clever at many things, including helping to write media plans, but the clue is in the word helping. We are not yet at the stage when media plans can be entrusted to a giant digital optimizer. Creative excellence trumps most things.

Anyone who thinks otherwise either doesn't know what a media plan is, wouldn't know creative excellence if it punched them in the face, or has no experience of working with optimizers.

Lesson 3: Short, snappy slogans work. They become memorable and, as such, we want to believe them — more so than when we have to work to try to understand a wordy restating of a strategy (or policy).

Lesson 4: Audience measurement might be a dry topic, discussed and delivered by earnest people who don't wear black T-shirts, jeans, and sneakers and who prefer to attend conferences that actually debate the issues, as opposed to a dressed-up trade show. But dry or not, believe me, measurement is the topic of the moment.

Media runs on measurement. If the measurement is wrong, not there, or not validated objectively, then we're all in trouble.

Those who think otherwise are in for a nasty shock when they wake up to find that the ground beneath their feet has turned into a rather nasty, messy bog.

Lesson 5: Branding works; building brand equity is a worthwhile enterprise. Short-term activity designed to drive short-term results also works.

But — and here's the bit we need to get a lot better at in 2020 — these things work better in combination. Campaigns designed to deliver short-term results work better if someone has thought to build the brand over the preceding few years. It's not either/or; it's both.

Similarly, all media forms and platforms work, but media forms work better together, as has always been the case. As media fragments and more new opportunities emerge, this truth only deepens.

Those who disagree are either a media salesperson paid to have a blinkered world view, or someone new to the business who simply believes the latest round of absurdly big numbers from the online platforms.

The more things change, the more we sometimes forget.

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