Agency contracts have to be changed so as to motivate the buying of quality ad experiences, not empty impressions. But first, marketing leaders need to stand out front and embrace new ways of thinking, taking the risk of offending someone. That is, taking chances by doing something that looks as if it could raise performance.
At a time of shell shock from daily seismic shifts in the marketechtonic platelets and corporate structures, played against a background of world political rages, it's of course predictable that people would keep their heads down. Hiding in plain sight so as not to be fired.
This is obvious from the standpoint of an innovative company plying its innovative wares. All of your meetings are good, some people even buy, see that it works, and then stop there. Why don't they deploy the new thing that works? That would get one noticed, and perhaps some people would not like what is being done. Why make waves? What's in it for me? Better stay safe hiding in the herd and let it all flow, same as last year. Keep everyone comfortable.
This is not actually the safe strategy it seems to be. You keep the boss happy figuring that she or he will take care of you no matter what. Just make the boss look good. But you are then totally unprepared for the most likely situation: a new boss comes in. All your political capital is gone. What do you have to show for yourself?
The safe strategy is not to just check the boxes and go through the usual motions. The safe strategy is to use science now available, and objective third party appraisal, to test and then deploy innovative technologies that increase company and brand performance, with irrefutable proof. Be on the side of objective right action. Test and deploy if proven, test something else and deploy if proven, keep trying new things until you are moving the needle in ways that are simple to prove like sales, margins, positive changes in brand perceptions and brand love based on large representative samples.
What can companies do to improve the situation? Many companies are already considering or actually installing Chief Innovation Officers who are charged with creating processes that reach into every department. There should be many more people with the word "Innovation" in their titles, at least one in every department -- not just in marketing, advertising, media and consumer insight/research departments. Someone with that word in their title knows he or she cannot sit still, content with the ways of the past.
The other key move companies must make to truly motivate objective and scientific innovation across the board in demand creation is to change the contracts now signed with agencies. Agencies bring outside perspective and big ideas, innately part of the innovation process, which is a very good thing. However, if a media agency contract is based on a guaranteed number of sex/age impressions and reach, those impressions and that reach will be fulfilled even at the expense of sales and branding effects. Like buying a pound of cheese, regardless of how good the cheese is. As if the poundage is what ensures the value. But poundage or tonnage does not ensure value. A study by 605 that was part of my ARF presentation in April 2019 shows that even just one impression, delivered in a psychologically compatible environment, had much more positive branding effect than seven impressions delivered in psychologically incompatible environments. This based on a nationally representative sample size of 23,000, with set top box data to accurately measure the impressions.
Agency contracts therefore have to be changed so as to motivate the buying of quality ad experiences, not empty impressions. Measure that any way you want; use the RMT DriverTagTM system or make up your own system, just verify that it works before you lean into it.
There is no more value in hiding in plain sight. The only value is accomplishment as measured by consensus reality yardsticks. Abandon first-party self-validation whether it's done by the media seller or the media buyer. Third party validation of everything is the wave of the future, the wave being ridden by direct marketers, data scientists, digital experts, big data experts, B2Cs and everyone experiencing success today. If you are not in any of those buckets, you are at risk, and simply not rocking the boat is going to backfire. Get on the winning side, innovate, and prove your value with objective measures. Do it now before it's too late.
Photo by Sebastian Herrmann / Unsplash
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