Monday, February 13, 2006

Concerning Cows and Viruses

Following on from Sir Martin Sorrell's comments at the tail end of last year and his predictions for this year regarding above the line advertising, suddenly everyone seems to be questioning the effectiveness of media as whole and demanding much more solid numbers of its effectiveness. Of course ATL will have a bit of a problem doing that a lot of the time, but I think Sir Martin is missing the point a bit.

It seems to me that Above the Line Media isn't so much having a hard time, as evolving into something else. The Lastminute and Honda ads are living examples (going by their download ratios) that people are prepared to search out good advertising creative but it is happening at a time when the consumer chooses, not when the broadcaster chooses. In July last year I was asked by a well known Direct Marketing Agency about the emerging media types. They obviously wanted me to talk about Podcasting and Blogging but as far as I am concerned, they were part of the mainstream (or at the very least established into the early adopter bracket). Instead I talked about billboards which blue jacked your phone or enabled you to gather more content via MMS. I note that Channel Four have produced the first of these ads. Another format I talked about was to have have Bus and Taxi screens carry content which was delivered via wireless depending on where you were on your journey (Local search anyone?).

Apparently these ideas were too off the wall for my audience and quite a few people looked at me as though I was from Mars (which is often an understandable response).

Digital Television was ill conceived in this country with its red button, dial up, home version of the web, structure, and this is why I think the red button is having so many difficulties. What is needed is real interactive content linked via broadband.

Content which is remarkable enough that consumers 'want' to interact with it, and can do so quickly and efficiently to gain a real experience of a brand and create a relationship between the consumer and the product. The current Red Button isn't going to achieve that. What I think is needed is for a new platform to come along which is based on broadband and a golden opportunity exists to do this on Freeview, which is where my money is going for the dream to become a reality (It will not have the price prohibitive access point and therefore provide a much better viewer ratio, plus it is early enough to plan ahead and have this service based on broadband and therefore offer a zero cost response to the consumer. Once that is offered suddenly the idea of tracking becomes a lot easier to manage, thereby fulfilling the requirements of advertisers to measure effectiveness)

Ive finally got around to reading Seth Godin's The Purple Cow, and in that he writes of the need for marketing communications to be remarkable and for products to be remarkable. This approach is totally in keeping with the points above. His point is Purple Cow advertising is the only option left, as Brown Cow advertising will be invisible to consumers and therefore not even worth pursuing.

I also remember seeing a piece in Last week's Marketing Week which talked about the rise of the independent agency as a creative force together with it's predicted fall.

Over on WK London's Blog (who are one of these ascendant independents) they countered this by saying that their independence underpins their creative talent, and Honda would seem to agree. They note on their blog that their business is now about creating work that people 'want' to search out through a series of media and watch, rather than to passively absorb it between Coronation Street, which actually gives their work a lot more power.

I've always thought that viral fell into this category as well. Work which people think is so remarkable that they 'want' to pass it on. An interesting point on the Chinwag UK Net Marketing List this morning highlighted how bad most viral marketing was on the Viralmonitor list.

I think there are going to be times when a client spends money on a campaign rather than investing in something which will work but surely its our job to educate them on this (totally understand the need to get cash in through the door argument only too well, but....).

I'm not one of those who thinks that there has to be a direct link between budget and creative result, but a lot of what you see on viralmonitor does look like people took the money and ran a lot of the time.

So a lot of brown cows out there on interactive media as well, and most of them have a nasty case of mad cow disease, but every now and then something purple does come along.

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