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    Death of a Salesman? Is traditional advertising dying, evolving or both?

    By Justin Goldsborough | January 6, 2010

    (Photo courtesy of www.merchantmaven.com) 

    One of my favorite parts about vacation is having the time to catch up on a TV series Maggie and I have been wanting to watch. Last week it was Mad Men. And besides wondering how agency employees got anything done while knocking down 10-plus drinks a day and smoking a carton of cigarettes a week :) , the show has me thinking about advertising. Is it dying, changing or just something I don’t put a lot of stock in. At this point, the jury’s still out.

    I’ve seen the numbers. We use them all the time in social media presentations at Fleishman. Consumers don’t trust advertising. At least they don’t according to Nielsen, which says the average person is exposed to more than 3,000 marketing messages a day, yet only 14 percent of people trust advertisements, while 78 percent trust peer recommendations.

    Edelman’s 2009 trust barometer backs Nielsen. It ranks employees and customers as the third most trusted source to consumers. Corporate or product advertising ranked dead last. Last month the Wall Street Journal reported global ad spend is expected to have fallen 10 percent in 2009 — a 13 percent sink in the U.S.

    So pardon the pun, but Don Draper’s industry of choice appears to be smoked. Doesn’t it? Or maybe, like society’s view of smoking and drinking at the office in the 60s, it’s just bound to evolve and change.

    Let’s run with that analogy for a bit, shall we? How many times did you hear a company mention its Facebook fan page in an ad six months ago? Now how many times have you heard it in the past month? If I remember correctly, Best Buy started the domino effect of ending an ad with a reference to the brand’s social media presence — the twelpforce stadium ads — and now it’s becoming more and more common by the day.

    Go into a store and you’ll see a “follow us on Facebook” sign taped to the cash register. Online ads (many on Faceook) are interactive polls or “become a fan” buttons that promote more engagement than your traditional banner ads. In fact, when Maggie and I were on vacation in Napa last week and went to eat at the Greystone Culinary Institute, a one-star Michelin restaurant (that means it’s really good, not that you get free tires…well, I didn’t know :) ), their was a “Follow us on Facebook” ad written at the bottom of the menu in this fancy restaurant.

    What’s this change mean? Some companies are changing what they feel the key takeaway should be in their ads. They have to. It used to be “check out this deal,” “you need this product” or “our airlines take you where you want to go.” Now it’s”let’s continue the conversation” or “come see what others are saying about us and let us know what questions you have.” I get that philosophy. It matches up well with the trust stats from Nielsen and friends.

    What I don’t get are companies that continue to shell out millions or thousands for a 30-seconds-or-less relationship. I saw your ad on TV, maybe even liked it, but that’s it. Fade to next commercial with the company saying, “Until I talk at you again.” And print ads make even less sense to me. Thank you I needed to fill up my trash can or recycling bin. What are the only print ads that are effective? IMO, coupons.

    My instincts are to call traditional ads — one-way TV spots, print ads, direct mail pieces, even online banner ads that take you to a traditional Web site — a waste of money. Do people really buy products based on advertisements these days? I can honestly say I don’t. At least I don’t think I do. In fact, I can’t remember a time I heard/read/saw an ad and said, “I’ve got to have that.” And I have never clicked on a banner ad in my life.

    I ran this theory by Maggie and she told me the most effective ads are the ones that influence your behavior without you knowing it. She said advertising isn’t going anywhere and that people buy things based off ads all the time whether they know it or not. I told her Don Draper would be proud.

    I’ve always thought there were three factors that directly impacted peoples’ purchase decisions — price, quality and opinions of those they trust. Advertising may plant an idea in a person’s mind that gets him/her to ask “how much” or that leads to a discussion of the product with his/her offline and online social networks. But the ad alone doesn’t sell the product, does it?

    Maybe Maggie’s right (don’t tell her I said that :) ). After all, I asked a couple of guys I really respect — @DannyBrown and @TomMartin — this question during Sunday’s #blogchat. Both said they had made purchases based solely on ads. In fact, Tom said he has a “houseful of products he bought based on an ad.” A small focus group I know, but still shows some of the varying opinions out there.

    When I first started writing this post, I imagined myself finishing it off with a line like “Don Draper would hate the advertising world today because it’s too much work.” Dying are the days when a company can just put together a creative spot or layout some catchy artwork and copy and be done. Ads in 2010 have to do more. They have to start a relationship and continue the conversation or at least get the consumer handed off to the brand representatives equipped to continue that conversation (hopefully your PR teams, but that’s another post).

    That’s where my head was at the start, but now I’m not so sure. So I guess it’s open for debate. My best guess is the companies that adapt their advertising strategy to be more of an engagement strategy using traditional advertising channels are going to be most successful at driving reputation and sales. The ad can be an introduction, but it better not be all a company brings to the party. Ads need to lay the foundation for a  “talking with” the consumer relationship that isn’t a campaign, but a full-time commitment. After all, “talking at” advertising relationships are as old school as an office where all the women are secretaries and having a scotch and a smoke at 10 a.m. is commonplace. At leasst that’s my two cents.

    I’d love to hear what you think about the current state and future of advertising. How will the ad industry have to adapt over the next few years? And can traditional advertising still be effective? Is traditonal advertising dying or is it not that cut and dry?

    Topics: Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

    5 Responses to “Death of a Salesman? Is traditional advertising dying, evolving or both?”

    1. Heidi Cool Says:
      January 6th, 2010 at 9:37 pm

      Interesting observation. I think Maggie is right, advertising isn’t dead, but it will have to evolve and change with the times. I see this happening on a few levels.

      1) Image advertising in support of name recognition and branding still plays an active role in consumer perception. All that repetition does sink in. This is particularly true for big brands like Coke and Apple.

      2)Business Web sites, blogs and social media channels are online 24/7 so having a solid online presence is critical, and advertisers should most certainly link out to those places. Those who aren’t online or can’t be Googled will lose out, because we’re making buying decisions on our own schedules, not just when we see an ad.

      3) Today’s technology gives us the opportunity to target our messages to more specific audiences than we’ve been able to in the past. Advertisers that direct messages at specific niches will have an advantage. They can also be more specific about where they drive traffic. If one buys a 30 second TV spot to promote the latest Chia pet, the link they run at the end of the spot should go to a landing page for that offer rather than the home page. Aside from the fact that this page can reinforce the message in the ad, it also gives them more data to measure how much traffic was generated by the spot. Or if that is too much trouble, they can put a promo on their home page to drive visitors to the offer/message from the T.V. spot.

      4)Linking to social media channels to continue the conversation is a great idea if companies are using those channels correctly. Their social media presence should support the brand and should encourage the sharing of information and ideas. Companies that are open to listening and responding while providing information that actually interests consumers will win.

      Alas many companies still don’t get it. I’ve seen many an ad that links to a Facebook page that ends up being just another glorified ad. Pages that only feed press release headlines, make product announcements and such aren’t giving consumers that extra that makes them worth following. Those who turn off reader commenting are even worse in that they are ensuring the conversation can only go one way.

      Hopefully signing up for their Facebook and Twitter accounts is just the first step. If they dig in and figure out how to use them, they’ll be in good shape, but if they just use them to create more ads, well then they’re just wasting time pretending to have joined the party.

      Overall I they just have to think logically about how ads, Web and social media can work together then structure their integrated marketing campaigns accordingly.

    2. FFcommunicator Says:
      January 7th, 2010 at 8:29 am

      :) Dead. Here’s 10 reasons why:


    3. Justin Goldsborough Says:
      January 7th, 2010 at 7:40 pm

      @Heidi Thanks for such a thorough comment. Definitely agree that an integrated approach is best way to be effective in today’s social media world. I’ll address your other points as you listed them:

      1) Just because image advertising sinks in doesn’t mean it’s effective…although Apple’s iPhone ads may be some of the more persuasive traditional ads I’ve seen. Still, I wouldn’t buy an iPhone without asking someone who has one what they think. And Coke, well my dad got me on that when I was like 2 :) .

      2)”Those who aren’t online or can’t be Googled will lose out, because we’re making buying decisions on our own schedules, not just when we see an ad.” (100% agree!)

      3) Like your chia pet idea. Haven’t seen a company do that…at least that I can recall. And what percent of people that see an ad with a link do you think actually go type it into a browser? Maybe 10%. Maybe.

      4)Like this point a lot and think it could be another post. In general, ad agencies should not be managing a company’s social media touchpoints online because talking like an ad is a big non-no — not authentic, transparent, etc.

      You would think companies progressive enough to mention social media in their ads would have a fairly good understanding of the resources needed and expectations consumers have of brands in that space. Probably not true across the board, but I’m guessing true for a majority.

      That leaves the companies with no social media presence mention in their ads, little social Web presence that are spending millions on 30-seconds-and-I’m-out spots practicing Don Draper advertising.

      Aren’t those companies wasting money?

    4. Kristy Wilson Says:
      January 12th, 2010 at 8:17 am

      This is my first visit to your site (the FH RSS feeds really do work!), and wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed this thoughtful post. I also had just read today’s WSJ story about how some entrepreneurs have been surprised to find that their customers still want traditional direct mail (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB20001424052748703481004574646904234860412.html). It appears to support the thinking that, while things are certainly evolving as you note, traditional advertising/marketing tactics still work depending on your audience and what you want to accomplish. While it may be a tired phrase, I think there’s something to be said about “the marketing mix.” Even great advertising — traditional or not — likely won’t work well in a vacuum. So maybe I’ll see a billboard ad about a new pizza while driving home, and then I’ll see a coupon for the same pizza when I go online, and then a friend tells me over the phone that they really enjoyed that same pizza recently. I’ll probably order that pizza for dinner. Just one of those things may not have convinced me, but all three worked together to get me to purchase something new. So I have to agree with Maggie that good advertising influences your decisions without you really knowing it. The form that advertising will take in 10 years may be different, but it still has to be good.

    5. San Diego short sale Says:
      April 21st, 2010 at 10:07 pm

      Good points…I would note that as someone who really doesn’t write on blogs much (in fact, this may be my first post), I don’t think the term “lurker” is very flattering to a non-posting reader. It’s not your fault at all, but perhaps the blogosphere could come up with a better, non-creepy name for the 90% of us that enjoy just reading the posts.