You can’t do it by halves

The following column is an anonymous consumer look at everyday experiences in the marketplace that the columnist feels would benefit marketing people.'I know half my advertising budget is wasted. The trouble is, I don't know which half.' - Usually credited to...

The following column is an anonymous consumer look at everyday experiences in the marketplace that the columnist feels would benefit marketing people.

‘I know half my advertising budget is wasted. The trouble is, I don’t know which half.’

- Usually credited to John Wanamaker, a u.s. department store merchant.

That line used to be a big joke.

Ha, ha, ha, advertising sure is a mystery, isn’t it? We do not know how it works or why it works, or if it works, but, hey, that’s the fun of it, right?

Half the budget is wasted, what the hell, we’ll just throw more money on the pile until something happens. What a great business, eh?

Uh-oh. It is 1993. Nobody is laughing any more.

No money to waste

There isn’t any money to waste, anywhere. (Ask Ontario Premier Bob Rae.) And agency people are hearing clients say disturbing things. Things like:

‘Listen agency. I’m sitting here cutting production, and cutting inventory, and cutting people. And you do not have a God-given right to ask me to take millions of dollars, and put them into clever words and pictures, unless you can prove to me that they will work.’

Or, ‘Listen agency. I will continue to advertise, but don’t give me any crap about needing to polish my image. Help me sell stuff, fast, or I won’t have an image to polish.’

Or, ‘Listen agency. Change! (But, sir, what do you want us to change into?) How the hell do I know? You are the experts, you tell me. All I know is, the way you are, the way you have always been, you are not meeting my needs.’

‘Listen, agency.’

‘Listen, agency.’

‘Listen, agency.’

And, so, remarkable things begin to happen. Clients move into more measurable fields of activity such as promotion and direct marketing.

Sears moves from an agency that does great creative marketing to an agency that does great psychographics. Coca-Cola literally goes Hollywood, moving its creative assignment from a giant advertising agency to a giant talent agency. (That one is worth a column in itself.)

Meanwhile, what do agency people do? They do a human thing. They hunker down, right where they have always sat.

Creative

If they are in creative, they say the future lies in modern breakthrough creative. If they are in media, they say the future lies in efficient, pencil-sharpened planning and buying. If they are in account management, they say the future lies in brilliantly honed strategies.

And they write letters, to this and other publications, saying that those who make non-traditional moves, at Sears and Coke and Labatt and elsewhere, are somehow being unfair.

They are not unfair. They just need help.

Today’s managers need people who can help them see beyond the horizon, because from here to the horizon, it is full of mud and monsters.

They need people who can use their experience to look forward, not backward – to face up to a communications world with zappers and Deathstars and satellite printing and Springsteen’s ’57 Channels and Nuthin’ On.’

Stretch yourselves

So agency people, instead of hunkering down and protecting your turf, get up and stretch yourselves. Bounce your mind around. Don’t take Charlie in the next office to lunch, take a hardware salesman.

If you wear a tie, take it off for a week; if you don’t, put one on. Find out what a Johnson box is, and why it works.

A student from Toronto’s Ryerson Polytechnical Institute told me last month that the future of advertising lies in product placement. Think about it, maybe she is right.

Creative guys, learn about people meters. Media folks, investigate SciTex. Everybody, watch the Nashville Network for a while.

It really is a new world out there. And the answers it demands will not come from the same old places.

Fortunately, if used properly, the human mind need not be a same old place.