The Battle Between Brand Builders and Activators

By The Cog Blog Archives
Cover image for  article: The Battle Between Brand Builders and Activators

The media business really doesn’t do considered moderation. “Twitter is the marketing tool of the future.” “Twitter is finished.” “Social media marketing is the answer to all of mankind’s problems.” “Social media couldn’t sell an iceberg to a polar bear.” “TV is dead.” “TV revenues continue to grow.” And so on. It sometimes seems we swing from an over-inflated enthusiasm for something, to a sense of being underwhelmed almost weekly. So it is on a broader basis, too.

In the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth (otherwise known as the full-service agency era) creative work was king. Never mind that we could only afford the odd spot on network TV; never mind that we knew from past experience that campaigns below a minimum threshold didn’t work; off we went anyway and placed our 60-or-30 second masterpieces.

“The work” was what mattered. We decided the “what” (as in what we said) way ahead of the “where” (or where we said it). As Bob Hoffman, The Adcontrarian has it on his site: "Creative people make the ads. Everyone else makes the arrangements."

How the pendulum has swung. Now it’s the media numbers that exercise the industry; the impressions, the reach, the page views, the clicks. Now it’s the “who,” the “where” and only then the “what.” Salesmen rule, selling today’s equivalent of snake oil to a market that is both confused and ill-informed. Confused because when it was a question of creativity driving everything at least everyone could have an opinion over what was or was not creative. You knew where you were. Now it seems we can’t even agree what “viewed” means.

The trouble with numbers is they have an air of authority, of broaching no argument. “A” is bigger than “B.”  What could be simpler than that? That’s where the ill-informed bit comes in, because often “A” may appear bigger than “B” but in reality is a lot smaller.

It is damaging to the health of the ad business to believe that everything we do has to be measured by short-term effect, however defined. It’s easy to talk about uplifts in clicks, or likes or retweets as if any of those things actually connected to something real like cash or profit.

But the fact is that advertising can best add value to a business -- real value measured by things like sales or profit or share price -- when used in a combination of long-term brand building activities and short-term activation techniques. Read the evidence. Listen to Binet and Field.

It is foolish to see the business as engaged in some sort of battle between the brand builders and the activators (or to put it another way between TV and online). It is equally foolish to see the business as a competition between the creatives and the media specialists (in whatever form). Sir Martin Sorrell’s comments about the medium being more important than the message and his thoughts on how the madmen have been replaced by the mathmen (a line you can bet wasn’t written by an algorithm) only compound this foolishness.

Now more than ever we need delivery mechanisms and creative excellence working hand in glove.

What we actually need is a new model that brings together the different disciplines in some way that allows them to work seamlessly together in harmony for the ultimate benefit of the client.

Now, who can think of a name for such a forward-thinking, client-facing, fully integrated offering?


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