Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ad Agencies? Where's The Midol? Mix It With Their Martini!

I am writing this while sipping a morning coffee in Atlanta’s Virginia Highland neighborhood. 

I come here most mornings for some causal time to browse through the Wall Street Journal and catch up on my Emails.

In the last blog-logue, I made note of some interesting numbers tracking the volume of retail sales on the world-wide-web.

Three articles in this morning’s WSJ struck me. 

One of the articles is about Nielsen and its challenges of working with ad agencies. The second article is about Google and the confrontational threat it faces voiced by ad agencies.

Ad agencies are going through interesting times.  And to be honest, I am really tired of holding their hands. 

Any time you hang with an ad agency you quickly see that…
(1)  Commission payment still drives their business model… no matter how much they say they don’t work that way anymore…
(2) The greater the reach, the better the buy… no matter how much they say they can “rifle-target” media buys… the more warm bodies they can secure, the better they believe is the deliverable
(3) Wheeling and dealing drives price… they remain insistent on stressing what is the “gross, non-negotiated” cost… and then making sure clients understand just how great a deal they were able to secure on their behalf

One of my clients has invested in securing market information that they can, in turn, provide to their retailer distribution network. 

Once the retailers are presented with the market information, they then bring in an ad agency media-buying firm to develop a marketing plan.

Yesterday, I participated in a call in which the media firm made a presentation. 

They had included radio in the buy.  When asked why, the rationale was simple… “it provides the broadest reach.”

And then when asked, well how do you know?  “Because they net the highest ratings” is the answer.

Who they reach, the match of the media channel with the message, the time of the day the spots run, the links to interactive media is all second tier consideration.

The more warm bodies the better!

I sometimes wonder if the entrepreneurs who tell me that everybody, everywhere is their target group are the champion ideal clients of the media maven.

The third WSJ article showcases how AOL is linking up its online advertising with television media. 

Interesting outcome birthed through the past merger of AOL with Time-Warner. 

The article goes on to talk about how the web will be married in terms of reach and the new, merged dynamics of broadcast ratings. 

Essentially, the article talks about how AOL is going to circumvent the media mavens and make the buying all automated online.

The interesting perspective shared in the article is how prospective advertisers will be able to select a “genre character” of websites and be able to place a brand on all of those aligned sites.

Almost a duplicate of what I am doing right now with COX Interactive for a number of our clients.

That part of what AOL is doing is positive news and certainly something that I will investigate and learn more about for our partners.

Lastly, I just hired a new college intern this week. 

She is a junior in the PR program at the University of Georgia.

When I asked her what courses she was taking this semester, she told me that one of the courses was “New Media.”

Curious to see how many others reading this wonder the same things I do…
(1) Calling the Internet “new media” when it is more than 15 years old is a bit of a misnomer… When I was taking classes back in the 1970s at University of Georgia, I don’t recall a class on cable television being referred to as “new media”… but it is analogous
(2) If the Internet, interactive, social and mobile are being taught in a separate class from “old media,” how are the students coming out of universities today viewing the planning process?  Is the Internet, interactive, social and mobile being viewed essentially as add-on channel options?

Here we sit in 2013 with all of our business partners knee-deep in 2014 strategy planning.

Maybe its time to wipe the slate clean. 

Don’t even bring the media mavens to the table.

Scrap the links with the recent college degree graduates.

Chuck the ad agency account execs.

Instead, bring in some Generation ZOOMers (see the AT&T commercials to learn who they are), inventive creative folks, gamers and anthropologists and have them to put together the brand plans. 

Let the folks like Nielsen, Google and AOL keep the conventional ad agencies, research statisticians and media mavens happy living in the past with the martini afternoons.

Maybe then, we will see some innovative strategy emerge in 2014.