A Grand Fromage from a big agency network broke the advertising omerta with me over coffee the other day.
‘Of course, we’ve never really been able to link campaigns to sales or ROI’.
Let me tell you, I nearly choked on my almond croissant.
It’s the unwritten law among GF advertising executives that no one mentions how random the effect of brand advertising is. When under scrutiny from client procurement executives the Big Ad industry has ensured success by rounding the wagons and sticking to the BARB-Nielsen script, or pointing to the latest Thinkbox research.
However, just as I was getting over this blatant breach of the rules another industry GF breaks the code! Writing on his blog Steve Henry blurts out that:
‘I’m getting sick of saying this, but 90% of advertising goes out there and does nothing at all. (I heard a figure the other day for what the average ROI is for marketing in this country. I can’t tell you the figure because I’ve been sworn to secrecy for now - but it’s diabolically low)’.
What’s going on? Maybe it’s just a case of a few loose tongues. They’ll probably disappear next week as the Farm St lawyers hand out the super-injunctions.
However, maybe, just maybe, it’s because a few brave souls have noticed that technology is slowly making the mass marketing argument impossible to maintain. For forever and a day, any ad executive worth their salt could deliver - with feeling - some variation on: ‘Maximum reach-and-frequency is the only way to build brand awareness thus creating equity that drives sales.’ Which paved the way for vast media spends that in turn justified chunky production budgets and maybe even an exotic location or two.
However, as all media, including TV, is slowly sucked onto one IP platform or another, thereby becoming highly measurable, the black box that the marketing industry used to keep its metrics in has been exposed to the digital sunlight. The battering ram of reach-and-frequency is being replaced by granular laser targeting.
First there was Google and its ‘database of intentions’ where only people who were searching for something were targeted with related commercial messages. Then came the rise of applications where people could choose content to run on their social networks, iPhones, iTouches and now Droids. More recently, we’ve had Facebook and its ‘people not pages’ approach, where advertisers can target individuals who have expressed a particular interest through their profile. Even the impregnable metrics maze that has driven TV’s vast global revenues has begun to open up. Social networks make it all too easy to see what people are actually watching – and what they are not. And finally, the promise of behavioural advertising looms large, where commercial messages are targeted according to the digital data trails that people leave behind them – not thrown over the nation like a blanket. Now these developments do of course bring their own Big Brother issues. But that can all all wait.
The Grand Fromage of advertising are finally taking notes. And a few are talking outside of the old school too…
The Virtuous Mob swarms Nov. 18 here.
For the whole tragic and inspiring backstory, go to The Virtuous Mob.
Don’t know what happened. Maybe one person just bought 16 books. But as I write this, TCS has its best Amazon rating since its publication. There are several million titles sold via Amazon, so this is a nice moment.
It’s something to savor, so I’m savoring my ass off.
…and whoever else has a big Twitter following. We are trying to rally The Virtuous Mob for a day of ruly behavior. Good work will be done, en masse. VirtuousMob.com. Hurry.
The Virtuous Mob is forming. Word is spreading. We are preparing to gang up on a charity and overwhelm it with aggregated energy of the throng. Please be a part of this mass exercise in mindless charity. And please tell EVERYBODY. Tweet #mobsters.
The Virtuous Mob will coalesce on November 18, at a URL to be revealed later, to simultaneously do something philanthropic and to honor the memories of Stone and Holt Weeks, two extraordinarily charitable young brothers who died in a summer accident.
More on their tragic and inspiring story soon. Meantime, tweet #mobsters and on Thursday check out VirtuousMob.com
The mob will converge Nov. 18, at a website to be revealed later. It is a foundation honoring the memory of Stone and Holt Weeks, two extraordinary young men who died in a highway accident, leaving behind an astonishing legacy of good works. Please bring your credit card and be prepared to make a small donation. Stay tuned on Twitter, via #mobsters.
The VirtuousMob.com website and accompanying blog are still under construction, due to a Heart of Darkness voyage into the Godaddy.com jungle.
One of the remarkable, recurring themes of our times is how an individual can take an idea onto the web and, often through the power of naïve enthusiasm, accidentally force a billion-dollar media industry to rethink everything it does (whoops!). This, of course, is what happened when Shawn Fanning unleashed his college dorm project – Napster - onto the world. Devastating the music business wasn’t Fanning’s goal. He just wanted to help his friends find their favourite tracks more easily. But the Big Labels never recovered and even though Napster wasn’t the only P2P service offering music downloads, Fanning became the unfortunate public enemy number one of the powerful RIAA and its crazed legal battles.
Then came Bram Cohen, the creator of BitTorrent, a P2P protocol that allowed people to share large software files online more easily, by breaking them up across networks of participants’ computers then making them easy to find and reassemble. Rather than relying on one machine to sit at the centre of a network and do all of the hard work. Such was the success of Cohen’s brainchild that at one point BitTorrent was thought to account for one third of all internet traffic. The result was the disembowelment of the movie industry’s distribution model and the eternal wrath of the MPAA. However, like Fanning, profits didn’t seem to be Cohen’s motivating factor. The only visible source of income from the BitTorrent project has been the T-shirts he has sold to its fans, emblazoned with the slogan, ‘Give And Ye Shall Receive’.
And now we have Justin Kan, creator of Justin.tv. Kan’s original experiment in 2007 involved wiring himself up to a mobile camcorder that streamed live onto the web. His motivation was to let people create their own ‘livestreams’, with the undercurrent ideal that CCTV shouldn’t be available only to the authorities. However, Justin.tv has quickly developed into a service that allows anyone to create a live TV channel. Today the site attracts more than 41 million visitors per month and has 428,000 ‘channels’. Some of which are dull feeds of people sitting at their desk working, others are vibrant niche channels of hobbyists. However, a few are feeds of live sports events that individuals are uploading from their paid subscription services, complete with community tools such as chat. Sound familiar?
The difference may be that Shawn Fanning and Bram Cohen were the pioneers who taught the legal profession that the world has actually changed. And Kan’s service is already joining a burgeoning, web TV ecosystem. For instance, Fanning financed his project with the help of his uncle while Cohen had no commercial aspirations at all. However, Kan’s project is supported by Silicon Valley’s respected technologist Paul Graham and his fund Y-Combinator. The fly-in-the-p2p-ointment is that live events, particularly sports, are meant to be one of the last bastions of broadcast TV’s superiority. So it seems unlikely the industry will just sit on the sidelines. However, the trend of passionate individuals unknowingly wreaking havoc on global industries continues. And Justin Kan looks like he might just be the next innovator to keep media executives’ heads spinning.
Today, at a speech in San Diego to the Public Relations Society of America, I will attempt to foment a mob.
Not an unruly mob; more of a ruly one, which I expect to teem and throb and surge on November 18 to demonstrate their fearsome power. For the forces of e-good, not e-vil.
This will be a Virtuous Mob, a means to harness the utility of social media in order to harness the power of the crowd to make a difference. It is not the first such use of Twitter to foment good. Brian Solis and Chris Brogan have pioneered Twitter calls to action. But this will be an ongoing enterprise, taking on a new spontaneous act of do-gooding with every new mob, all recorded on the blog appended to VirtuousMob.com (which should be published by Wednesday morning. On Twitter I’ll use the hashtag #mobsters.
Because this is the debut of the Virtuous Mob, we’ll begin with something simple: a donation to a basic charitable foundation — albeit one with a heartbreaking and magnificent raison d’etre.
The foundation honors the memories of two young men, brothers whose lives were built around helping others, and whose causes were many: homelessness, lymphoma, the environment, and more. They were indefatigable in their energies on behalf of others, which they accomplished literally with their own blood, sweat and tears. This summer, they were killed when a tractor trailer rear-ended their compact car on a Virginia highway.
In subsequent posts, I will tell more about these extraordinary guys, and ultimately provide the link to the foundation dedicated to them. There I urge you to make a small donation. Small x thousands, after all, ceases to be small. Thank you for taking matters into your own hands and, meantime, I implore you:
SPREAD THE WORD. VirtuousMob.com
Thanks and stay tuned.