Tick Tock

By The Cog Blog Archives
Cover image for  article: Tick Tock

Last week’s post ended rather elliptically with references to bells ringing and clocks ticking. I promised to continue this week; so here goes: I think the ad business has a problem. Furthermore, it is in large part self-inflicted.

Things started to go wrong when we put the media chaps in charge. (Before reaching for your angry crayon, could I ask you to look up my resume?) Media chaps like nothing more than big audience numbers acquired cheaply. The more audience the better; the cheaper the better.

This is an argument that’s easy to understand -- and many from media auditors through to procurement managers have enhanced their careers from understanding it.

You could certainly make the case that way back when in the offline days, taking TV as an example, the only metrics worth worrying about were ratings bought and price paid. Back then, if you wanted to sell beans, you made a commercial extolling the virtues of your beans, bunged it on TV, spent an hour or two listening to the agency boasting about how it had just bought the cheapest campaign in the history of campaigns, and watched sales of beans explode off the shelves.

The issue back then was the commercial. What to say about beans? How to say it? Where to film it? The media piece was less controversial and more to do with ensuring value for money.

Today? Well, it’s a tad more complicated. You still want to sell beans to people. You still know a bit about who buys them, and who might be persuaded to buy them. Certainly you have many more options when it comes to delivering the message, but the basics remain. It’s the execution that’s changed.

You still need what today we have to refer to as "content."

This could be a commercial. Or an influencer reclining on a sun lounger whilst doing everything except eat beans. Or a TikTok video putting bean-eating to music. Or a YouTube video showing how to open and heat a can of beans. Or any combination of the above, and more.

You could of course write this content yourself using ChatGPT. By the time I’ve finished typing this sentence you’ll be able to make a video using ChatGPT. You probably already can and I just don’t know about it.

You could place your masterpiece programmatically against an audience defined as heavy eaters of beans who also like toast and a fried egg. You could personalize the cans. You could ensure that the only people to see your content are called Brian and live in South West London.

A few things are then likely to happen. First, no-one you know will ever see or more to the point remember your content. No-one will have heard of your beans and those that have will have done so only because they keep deleting ever-more desperate messages to sign-up to our "film yourself eating our beans, place it on Instagram and win a million" competition.

Few will buy them.

On the plus side we managed to buy gazillions of … something. We optimized impressions, we maximized coverage, we capped frequency. We know this because the nice people from whom we bought the ad space and time told us so.

Fraud? We used our own proprietary system to stop that happening. Yes, we developed it all ourselves. No, I don’t know how it works. (But then, if I had someone explain it, nor would you.) But it’s brilliant!

Attention paid? We built that in at the planning stage. You must remember the slide in the presentation.

Regardless, even better than some spurious attention metric, a majority of Brians living in South West London answered positively to a social media poll: "Do you ever fancy beans?"

The sample? Oh, more than enough. How did we find them? We have our ways. Proprietary ways. Blah blah tracking.

Sadly, someone somewhere will eventually notice that sales of beans have tanked. Questions will be asked. Answers based on spurious metrics of online impressions won’t impress.

Advertising doesn’t work. Budgets will be cut. Agencies will get fired.

Now I know this is silly. No-one can be this daft (although Heinz gave it a good go many years ago stopping all advertising and putting their faith in promotions and other BTL communication), and nothing’s ever black or white, but the main point stands.

Advertising is becoming less liked. Eventually it will work less well because it’s less liked. This is more of an issue online than offline, but as advertisers follow audiences it’s online revenues that are growing.

So, the bigger share of the cake is working less well.

That only ends one way; and it’s not with a bigger cake.

To be continued ...

Self-published at MediaVillage through the www.AvrioB2B.com platform.

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