The Marketing Revolution: Light Reading To Help You Wake Up and Smell The Java

Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock the last 10 years, you’ve been getting the drift that some things may be changing in your marketing world.  But it’s not always easy to remind yourself that you need to be thinking a whole new way, and be developing entirely new skill sets to make yourself relevant to what’s going on.  So here are a few “wake up and smell the coffee” articles about the shifts going on, and what you need to do about it.

Snooze Alarm Number 1: “The Future of Advertising” from Fast Company

 The first point of view is “The Future of Advertising” from Fast Company.  If you are an ex-Ad Agency person like me– and you know a whole lot of people who used to work in the traditional agency business who hung on to that melting iceberg of traditional mass media ad strategies right down to its ice-cube size nub– this is quite a read.  Here are the some key take-aways:

In the easy, comfortable era of 20th century marketing, “TV Ruled the world”

 The marketing and advertising process was relatively simple and nicely profitable for most of the last century.  Agencies had a very predictable “assembly line” focused on expensive mass media, in part because it was easy, in part because media like TV paid the bills via those fat 15% commissions—“the more the client spent, the more money the ad agency made”.  But then the world started changing and all those expense account lunches at Nobu have started looking more and more like a thing of the past:

Over the past few years, because of a combination of Internet disintermediation, recession, and corporate blindness, the assembly line has been obliterated — economically, organizationally, and culturally. In the ad business, the relatively good life of 2007 is as remote as the whiskey highs of 1962.

The new world is about Digital Marketing, and the reality is it’s highly complex

While the new, sophisticated technology of modern marketing is allowing companies to get closer to the Holy Grail of targeting exactly the right consumer at the precise moment when they are most likely to buy—the reality of this capability is it’s “a very complex nightmare”.  Digital isn’t just a single channel, it’s “a medium that blooms thousands of other mediums”.  Which means managing all this is no longer simple, no longer easy and much less profitable–

Brad Jakeman, who formerly led advertising at Citigroup and Macy’s, says the explosion of platforms like search, geotargeting, the iPad, and mobile apps means fragmented media budgets and fragmented consumer attention. “The irony is that while there have never been more ways to reach consumers, it’s never been harder to connect with consumers,” explains Jakeman. The death of mass marketing means the end of lazy marketing.

 The rise of Social Media means that user influence is on the way to becoming more powerful then Mass media (and oh by the way– it’s free)

 What in the past was a very straight-forward, controlled, one-way blast of your message out to a passive audience of millions, now has become a chaotic, real-time “conversation” with those same millions. If you’re a marketer in today’s rapidly unfolding new universe, the lure of this is that you can get your message spread by users—without you spending a dime– through social media like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.  Jonathan Bond—famous in the ad business for founding the edgy agency Kirshenbaum Bond—sums this up nicely: “Marketing in the future is like sex. Only the losers will have to pay for it.”

In a world where “media spend is in inexorable decline”, fat margins are gone (and along with them an entire business model)

Agencies desperately want to go back to the simple world of the advertising assembly line with its 2 week TV shoots and media parties at the Forbes yacht (the one with the helicopter and two BMW motorcycles on board—yeah, I was there).  They talk about getting clients to pay for the “big idea” (who needs all this silly free social stuff?). But—as Fast Company points out—this is wishful thinking.

“This is a holdover from 20th-century marketing,” says Brian Collins, a former Ogilvy exec who now runs an innovation consultancy. “People who think that way are supremely well equipped to work in a world that no longer exists”… Bob Garfield sees this big-idea payday as the last wish of an industry that’s drowning. “In a world where media spend is in inexorable decline, and where advertising per se is an endangered species, [agencies] don’t know where to turn,” he says. “The realization of the nightmare is under way. And that nightmare is the utter collapse of the business model.”

 In this new world of “infinite inventory”, technology rules.  So you better learn to speak geek.

Clay Shirky  and Ken Doctor have talked extensively about the disruption created by infinite digital ad inventory.  While under the old economics barriers like the high cost of running a TV network or producing and printing a magazine function as limits to ad inventory (which holds up prices), in the digital data era those limits don’t exist (think of all those Facebook users and YouTube views and the massive ad inventory generated).  The core problem that the old form of industrial content distribution solved — the “incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public”– has simply “stopped being a problem”.  Dave Morgan also described the impact of this on the ad industry when he wrote “exposure based advertising is now a commodity”.  As Shirky has pointed out, there are videos on youtube produced by a 15 year-old that have produced more ad inventory than many TV shows today.  As Fast Company writes, in this new digital era technology rules. 

Tech titans like Microsoft, IBM, and Google are rolling out tools that replace agency analysis with digital measurements that can predict the best targets for a campaign and quantify its success. Google, arguably the industry’s most polarizing frenemy, is helping agencies use its planning and analytics tools, while at the same time automating their media-buying jobs. “With infinite ad inventory on the Internet, you just can’t have people do [media planning] anymore,” says Dan Salmon, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets who covers advertising and marketing services. “It’s now being done by a piece of software.”

 In the future, the market previously owned by the agency is up for grabs

 Where does this all leave agencies in the future?  Forrester’s opinion is that agencies are now in a “great race” for relevance.  What now defines an agency is changing rapidly, and that is leaving openings for many other companies from tangential industries to fill this new space more effectively and efficiently than agencies have been able to.  As the Forrester research analyst Sean Corcoran writes:

 Agencies appeared in the mid 19th century as retailers and manufacturers recognized they could communicate with the masses through the explosion of newspapers during the Industrial Revolution. From that point on, agencies adapted to changes in mass media (e.g. TV, radio), society and business. That is, until the rise of the Internet at the end of the 20th Century. At that point, most traditional agencies (whether creative, PR, full service or other) were slow to adopt interactive skills which opened the door for a new kind of interactive agency that would work with a new kind of marketer focused specifically on the digital space. Yet now we’re entering into a new era of marketing, an era that Forrester calls “The Adaptive Marketing Era”.  In this era, interactive and digital technologies become the foundation of marketing communication. …. According to our research, most interactive marketers don’t trust their traditional agencies with digital work and yet most don’t believe their interactive agencies are ready to lead yet either. All of this creates somewhat of an agency purgatory – where different agencies try and take on each others’ roles but no one type of agency is ready to take over.


Snooze Alarm Number 2: “The Death of Marketing As We Know It” by Pelin Thorogood


The second is a great article by Pelin Thorogood on the way technology is changing marketing, called: The Birth of “Customer 2.0” and the Death of Marketing As We Know It.  A few of the key themes Pelin talks about in this piece worth processing:

The problem: Customer 2.0 does not want to be sold to. They want to find the right products and services by themselves, which renders interrupt-driven marketing less effective and desirable. Inbound marketing is a new approach to marketing that optimizes getting found by customers, and attracts qualified buyers to the business. Social media engagement, search engine optimization (SEO) and link-building are all examples of effective inbound-marketing activities. Inbound marketing not only benefits the business by improving Web site “findability” by qualified buyers, but also benefits the visitor with improved content relevancy and linked resources.

Pelin’s advice is that modern marketer’s need to think of themselves as “Content Engineers”, pulling the levers on Social Media, Analytics and SEO in order to engage and sell to Customer 2.0:

In Darwinian terms, the demands of the new breed of customer not only forces the evolution of the marketing practice but that of marketing practitioners as well — and a new breed of marketer is emerging. The content engineer is a marketer who engineers and optimizes the many forms of content required to engage customer 2.0, based on the data presented by the many analysis tools. Social-media monitoring and analysis give them the pulse on buyer sentiments on brands, products, and ad campaigns. Web analytics tell them which content is engaging which type of visitor from which source. Search engine optimization tools present them with the right keywords to include on their Web site to improve page rank (and thus findability) with search engines. Leveraging all the social and behavioral intelligence available to them, content engineers develop and apply the right content, at the right time, to engage the right audience in the most effective manner possible. Part creative left brain and part scientific right brain, content engineers live and breathe the new marketing math: creativity without conversions = zero!


Obviously as you’re reading above, there’s a whole lotta change going on.  Things are moving quickly, and staying relevant means you need to be able to absorb a lot of info and do it fast.  Either that or you’re going to be hanging on to a very small iceberg….


John’s digital experience dates back over two decades, to before the web was born. He is currently VP Marketing for Advance Digital, and is a regular writer and speaker on topics including Search, Social Media, Content Marketing, Local Media and the Digital Marketing Revolution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *