Advertising’s Answer to Their Own Problem? Entertain

I attended a marketing association meeting yesterday. I don’t usually attend this group’s meetings because they tend to focus on only one of the 4 Ps of marketing – Promotion (go figure). This time looked different though. The summary of the presentation was as follows:

Let’s face it. Our marketing world is coming apart at the seams. Consumers are running from us. Media is fragmenting. Technology is evolving at light-speed and impacting our lives even faster… Time has become the new currency. And entertainment the new information purveyor. What does that mean to marketers? Big changes, baby. It’s the Darwin Era in American marketing. And the survivors will have branding in their DNA.

This is a presentation given by the VP/Creative Director of the most prominent ad agency in Tulsa. I thought, “Holy cripes! They got it.” I really didn’t expect traditional ad agencies in the area to have this figured out yet.

So, I go to the meeting. At the beginning of her preso, she got my head nodding quite a bit. She talked about transparency, citizen marketers, and the need to develop relationships with customers. She did a very good job of laying out the problem. Then came the solution. And in true ad exec fashion, she gave her solution in the form of ADVERTISING. She played ad after ad of what she thought was funny, cute, and well-targeted. Uhm… so how is that transparent?

So, the solution to being transparent and developing relationships with customers = advertising that is more creative? Are those “Big changes, baby?” How about advertising that is more transparent… authentic? Instead, it sounded like the same trite answers from the same clueless advertising execs.

I was amazed that in nearly the same breath, she praised Starbucks and Burger King (don’t hyperventilate John Moore). Talk about polar opposites! Starbucks is all about the customer experience and very little about advertising. Burger King is all about advertising and very little about the experience.

I went from nodding to shaking my head. I couldn’t disagree more with her accolades for Crispen Porter & Bogusky. Are they creative? Yes. Entertaining? Yes. But they’re also participating in the marginalization of marketing. Marketing no longer has to relate to the business, products, or services they promote. They just have to entertain the target audience. It’s like the offspring of the worst of Madison Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard. And it disgusts me.

So what happened here? Why did I get sucked into a presentation, only to find out that it really wasn’t “as advertised.” It all comes down to one little sentence I glossed over in the presentation summary:
“And entertainment [is] the new information purveyor.”

Entertainment is apparently the best method for transparency according to ad agencies.

They still don’t get it.

Dustin Staiger is a business and marketing coach in Houston, TX. He addresses team and individual effectiveness, marketing, communications and creativity for smaller, entrepreneurial organizations as well as large enterprises.

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5 thoughts on “Advertising’s Answer to Their Own Problem? Entertain

  1. DUST!N,
    Ad agencies are running scared – much of their work doesn’t work anymore. Their clients want a return on their advertising investment and aren’t getting it from the agencies. And “transparency” is just a new buzzword for them- devoid of any real meaning. Their “entertainment is the new information purveyor” is but a hopeful cry from their prayerful lips. They almost believe they can entertain people. And they probably can, if your idea of entertaining is watching GM fill the air with advertising while it sinks below the horizon.

    A VP Creative who praises BK and the Mermaid logo’d folks in nearly the same breath doesn’t get branding, transparency or consumers. How entertaining indeed!

  2. How exactly did she praise BK and Starbucks? What context did she have for bringing up Starbucks? Because both can be lauded but for very different reasons, as you point out. Since they’re different brands pursuing different goals, it might have been cool if she could have made her case for creative in that way. (For instance, does the suckiness of the BK experience almost require the creative to be what it is?) Otherwise it sounds like she has half of a very good presentation going.

  3. Irene,
    She basically said Starbucks sells the coffee house, not the coffee. Which is very simplistic, especially after meeting with John Moore of Brand Autopsy (former Starbucks marketer). She then went on to detail the subservient chicken campaign by Crispen Porter & Bogusky. She lapped praise upon their creativity, yet never mentioned how Starbucks has become a success. Maybe that’s because it had very little to do with advertising as she knows it.

    Preach it! Transparency? Authenticity? All they care about is how they can monetize it. Which misses the point completely and ends up being opaque and fake.

  4. “Advertising as she knows it” — that sums it up neatly. I always enjoy reading your blog and especially look forward to part 2 of the inspirational exercise.