Reset Marketing, Starting With the 2020 Upfront – Part 1

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The one silver lining emerging during the first global pandemic in history is that individuals and industry are both reconsidering the ways they operate.

This is probably a natural reaction to the pause and reflect nature of stopping the automatic run of vast amounts of planned advertising, closing most retail outlets, and cloistering at home. These things give some of us more time for self-reflection, while others still kept busy by constant Zooms making contingency plans, are being forced to ask and answer the largest questions of why they have been doing what they have been doing for years.

In this article our objective is to make recommendations regarding the way we do marketing, and then specifically honing in on the 2020 Upfront, which some say will not happen this year, and may never happen again.

Peter Drucker Forgotten

The person who contributed most to the philosophy of management, Peter Drucker, considered innovation and marketing to be the two most important things in business, the only true profit centers, the ones which bring new customers and keep existing ones, all other activities being expense centers.

In the modern C suite, nothing could be farther from the reality. Marketing is the lowest on the totem pole in most C suites. Most CEOs did not come up through marketing and have never taken the time to truly understand it. The general perception of marketing is that it is, as Dilbert defined it, "guesswork and alcohol". In an earlier article I pointed out that this is an outmoded way of thinking about marketing now that direct response thinking, big data, AI, content analytics, and other new tools have been swept into marketing's purview.

The Marketing Accountability Standards Board (MASB) exists in large part to help re-educate CEOs to the true role of marketing and to scientifically discern marketing's contribution to brand equity, that is the M&A saleable value of a specific brand.

Once CEOs are fully aware of what marketing is, and how it relates to the enterprise itself, they will become more active in a leadership role, collaborating with CMOs and other C suite members in making the big decisions.

Lowest Cost is Not Necessarily Highest Value

If we knew then what we know now, wouldn't we have spent a lot more money on coronavirus research? We knew from the experience with SARS and MERS that coronaviruses were mutating and becoming steadily more dangerous. But we sat back and didn't spend enough.

It's the same streak in us that has a fixation on the idea that it's brilliant to always pay the least we can for everything.

If we have cancer, we don't apply that thinking to the choice of doctor. But if a brand is topped out or slipping backwards, as most brands are today simply because of increased competition, we still keep applying that cheapskate mentality even though for the brand or company the situation might be equally life and death. Yet the marketing doctor agencies hired are selected based on how cheap they can be gotten. As if brilliant marketing thinking, the having of Big Ideas, were a commodity like ball bearings.

This is embarrassing. I hope no other planets are watching.

Years ago, companies decided that all media agencies do exactly the same thing, they are not differentiated in their procedures, so we might as well just buy the one that costs the least.

Job number one for any media agency today is to prove significant positive and sustainable differentiation, leading to client better marketing productivity. This has to come with incentive bonuses for third party measured performance.

Another area in which Scrooge-think is toxic is the idea of buying research that is "within what we can afford" i.e. an arbitrary judgment. Without regard for research quality.

Just one example of this is the current tendency to make decisions based upon the least expensive return path data, namely Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) data from one manufacturer's Smart TV sets, despite the fact that such data undercounts total TV ad impressions by more than half, since 1.1 TV sets in the home will not capture viewing from the other of the 2.6 TV sets in the average home, nor are the 1.1 sets covered typical of the viewing on the other 1.5 TV sets, so simple upweighting is only cosmetically effective but not quality research upon which to base decisions involving millions of dollars.

Overall, the industry invests only about 1-2% of total marketing in research/data/analytics. This does not have to be increased by very much in order to allow buying the best available research. Persisting in our current mode is highly naïve and suborns our objectives.

In Part 2 of this analysis, I will dissect one of the biggest obstacles to outcome-oriented advertising: The Almighty CPM.

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