The glass is half full

recession cartoon

I know it may surprise some of you to learn that The Genius is actually a relentless optimist. Critical as I may sometimes be, the truth is I have a natural tendency to look for the positive in people and situations. It’s just not as entertaining to write about the nice stuff. Sorry.

Given my optimistic nature, it’s been rather annoying to watch tv, read magazines, or even make small talk with my neighbors lately—because everyone has their panties jammed waaaaaaay up their @#$*! as a result of “the current economic situation” [insert melodramatic music here].

Listen, people. I understand that the sh*t has hit the proverbial fan. I’m not denying the facts. We all had one big over-indulgent party together, and now we’re suffering from one MASSIVE hangover. But it doesn’t do us any good to dwell, now does it? Does complaining all day about how much your head aches make things better?

Genius that I am, I’m fairly certain that “this too shall pass” and in the meantime, we best not PANIC. Which is why I took the time out of my very busy and extremely important schedule to throw together a little bit of thinking aptly titled “The Glass is Half Full.” Lest you dismiss it as yet another martini-induced rant, I assure you, it’s got real data. Naturally, it has a few curse words. And most definitely, it offers some fresh perspective.

I hope you’ll enjoy it, and… if you’re so inclined, perhaps you’ll even pass it on. Because just about everyone could use a bit o’ good news.

Breast implants wont hide the fact that you’re not very creative

And neither will a really fat media budget… but we’ll get to that…

Two days after returning from the AdAge Digital Conference, I’m still stuck on the Earned vs. Paid Media discussion that kicked off the event.

It all started with Fred Wilson’s opening keynote which proclaimed:

paidvearned1

In case you’re new to the “paid” vs. “earned” debate, here’s a handy little diagram from David Armano, VP of Experience Design with Critical Mass:

Nifty, eh? And applicable not just to digital media but to ALL media (IMHO).

But what’s really interesting isn’t the rising trend toward earned and away from paid [a hotly debated issue!], but the bizarre skewing of creativity vs. spending within the two models (also from Fred’s presentation which can be downloaded here):

tvearned

Is it me or does it appear the Paid Media approach is um… a little bit o’ cheating? A la “Just in case I’m not creative enough… I’ll BUY enough visibility to hammer the goddamn message home.”

WTF????!!!!

So all this thinking was percolating in my teeny weeny brain when Simon Clift, CMO of Unilever stated rather bluntly (and probably to the great horror of his media planners):

I’m convinced fat media budgets help make people lazy, and we’ve thought about [whether we] should cut media budgets on some specific projects in order to force people to come up with ideas.”

It’s no secret that the very best, most compelling “case studies” in marketing, advertising, and PR are those that succeeded in spite of tiny [or non-existent] media budgets—not because of them.

Yet the model that our industry was built on demands—and most certainly relies—on EXPOSURE, REACH, EYEBALLS, IMPRESSIONS [insert synonym of choice] doing the bulk of the heavy lifting.

I’m sorry, people, but that’s so 1999.

Which is why, true to character, I shall now throw down the proverbial gauntlet:

IF YOU WANT TO HAVE A JOB IN MARKETING, ADVERTISING, OR PR 5 YEARS FROM NOW, PLEASE STOP COUNTING ON A FAT MEDIA BUDGET TO COMPENSATE FOR YOUR LACK OF CREATIVITY.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news (or do I? Jury’s still out…), but better be honest now than sorry later.

Earned media is here. It’s aggressive. And it has no respect for its elders.

So instead of fighting it, why not give it a big ole hug?

F**k paid media.

Just got out of the morning session of AdAge Digital Conference where Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson discussed the idea that it’s time we start investing in “earned media” in addition to the good ole fashioned paid variety. Then he shared this point of comparison:

Two ad spots during the Superbowl cost roughly $4MM plus another $1MM to produce the ad. That means an advertiser is spending $5M to get roughly 10MM people exposed (but not engaged), for 30 to 60 seconds.

CareerBuilder’s Monk-e-Mail campaign cost $250k in creative and execution fees (earned media, not paid) and got 30MM users to actually interactfor an average of 8 minutes each.

Whip out your calculator and you’ll quickly see that the pure cost per impression for the paid media campaign is $.50—versus $.000833 for the earned media campaign. And that’s not even factoring in the length of time they spent on the site or the viral/network effect downstream.

Is it me or is the shift to earned media A TOTAL NO BRAINER?

The only thing I don’t understand is why a smart guy like Fred would pussyfoot around the issue and say “in addition to” not “instead of”.

Throw down the gauntlet, Fred! Stir the pot! PUH-LEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Also, thank you for giving me a lovely excuse to drop an f-bomb. And for sharing that story about the Jonas Brothers. Much obliged.)