Why Traditional Advertising is Kinda F**ked (and what we should do about it!)

Attention brands, business owners, advertising agencies, and media peeps!!!!

I have some bad news. And it’s not about the financial markets, the election, or your expanding waistline. Nope—it’s far, far worse.

Are you sitting down? Good. Here it comes…

TRADITIONAL ADVERTISING IS IN A DEATH SPIRAL.

That’s right. DEATH SPIRAL.

Now before you freak and jump out a window (or worse—post nasty anonymous comments in reply to this statement), allow me to explain. And yes, to propose a solution… I am a Genius, after all.

Traditional Advertising’s “Death Spiral” can be attributed to 3 recent phenomena:
1.    Clutter
2.    Trust
3.    Social media

Let’s talk.

Clutter
I don’t know about you, but I hate clutter.

A little bit of nice, clean white space feels so much better.

If traditional ads were spaced like these last few paragraphs, they might actually WORK.

We might actually even ENJOY them.

But instead… most ads are more like this:
piledandsquishedrightontopofoneanothersothatwehardlyhaveachancetotakeabreath
letaloneprocessanyinformationordecodeanyoftheproductmysteriesorevaluatewhat
makesthembetterfastermoreeasiernewerDIFFERENTERorinanywaynecessarytoour
existenceonthisincreasinglyoverpopulatedplanet
GASPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!!

Clear as mud? ☺

The worst part is that the Clutter Problem is escalating at a DEATH-SPIRAL-INDUCING rate.

Consider this:
In 1998 Google had an index of 25M pages. As of this summer, its index had hit the mind-blowing milestone of 1 TRILLION UNIQUE URLs.

A F**KING TRILLION!!!!!

Still more to consider:

There are >100,000,000 videos on YouTube.com—with >65k new ones being added DAILY.

In 2005 (most recent data I could find), there were roughly 40 BILLION product catalogs published. That’s equal to 134 catalogs for every man, woman & child in the US.

Yes, folks, the average person is exposed to some 3000 marketing messages per day… but the American Association of Advertising Agencies says we’re only able to absorb (at most!) 100.

And let’s face it, that’s probably an inflated number.

PS. 90% of people who can skip ads, do.

Yes, but most of those messages are crap. What matters is good creative. Killer copy. Pretty women with big boobs wiggling around to a HAWT soundtrack.

Ok… NO. Neither creative nor copy nor boobs—nor any combination of the three—are likely to solve the clutter problem. Besides… you’ve got 2 more hefty problems to solve.

Trust
“Lets talk about trust baby, let’s talk about you & me…”

People don’t trust advertisers. Period.

You know it. I know it. Let’s call a spade a spade and move on. But in case you’re still skeptical (or just plain crazy), here’s proof:

“In a 1998 Gallup poll rating honesty and ethical standards across a range of professions, advertising people ended up near the bottom, sandwiched between lawyers and car salesmen.”

SANDWICHED BETWEEN LAWYERS AND CAR SALESMEN, people!!!!! And perhaps, if we were to redo this poll today, they might change those to “Politicians and Pimps” (both of whom are better-dressed, frankly-speaking).

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the trust that most consumers have in the opinions of other consumers.

“‘Word-of-mouth’ the most powerful selling tool…78% of consumers say they trust the recommendation of other consumers.” – Nielsen, Trust in Advertising, 2007 Global Consumer Survey Report.

And the trend is particularly true among younger consumers—namely, the ¼ of the US population (ONE F**KING FOURTH!) who are 14-24yo and were born wired.

Raised in a time where “SPAM” and “COOKIE” don’t automatically conjure images of food, today’s youth LIVES and BREATHES online:

  • They spend >16 hours online/week (online > TV)
  • 56% spend >1 hour daily sending instant messages
  • ¼ prefer social networks to F2F time with friends
  • Have an average of 53 online friends (vs. 11 “close” friends)
  • 96% use a social network DAILY

And they don’t care about your ad, people. They care what their friends think.

Trust me. 😉

Social media
Ah… every traditional advertiser’s favorite topic! YAY! Let’s hug.

Seriously, now—it’s common knowledge that people don’t like intrusive, one-way conversations. What is traditional advertising but an intrusive, one-way conversation?

The paradigm is shifting. Fast. Hard.

Ahh… The Solution!

Should we make the logo bigger?

Craft a catchy new tag line?

More girls? Bigger boobs?

No, no, no, no, NO!

Traditional Advertising’s Terminal Illness (aka Death Spiral) shall not be cured by a larger helping of the Same Old Shi*t. You’re going to have think different. Act different. BE DIFFERENT.

REALLY DIFFERENT.

Start by shifting your focus more on branding and less on advertising. Yes, branding. That magical je ne sais quoi that ultimately results in the feelings/thoughts/attitudes that people have about your product/service/company.

You mean our tagline?
No.
Our logo?
No.
The killer copy on our website?
No.
…..Our tagline?
No.
Are you sure?
Yes.

Your brand isn’t what you say your company/product/service is. It’s what THEY say it is.

Branding isn’t advertising.

In fact, it’s more like… your child. You can’t control it (though it’s natural to want to try)… but you can [and should] certainly influence it, enable it, embrace it, and inspire it.

Start by listening. Really listening. No, REALLY listening.

There. Doesn’t that feel better already?

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Facebook: Power Tool or Sink-Hole? You decide.

I got this entertaining email a few months ago from a fellow marketer who is an admitted novice in the world of social media. He asks, in the simplest of terms, Whether Facebook is in fact A “Power Tool” or a “Black Hole” of Wasted Time.

-An excellent question that even the savviest among us has surely [at some point] asked!

I’ve been too busy dealing with idiots clients to get back to him, but I thought, perhaps sharing this with you all—you Geniuses-In-Waiting—would spark a healthy discussion.

And so… please, take a read:

Dear F**king Marketing Genius,

I have just voted for your f**cking presentation, which is, of course, f**cking genius. Plus, I’m forwarding it to a client of mine who’s asking about blogging, and will therefore make me look like a f**cking genius. Or maybe just an old F**ck. Which is what you’ll think if you read on…

One of the frameworks that helped me understand the power of social media is that of the many-to-many learning model. If I have a problem with my Mac (rarely, but it happens), I don’t go to the Mac website. I seek out other users online, and get an instant read not just on the problem and solution, but how to feel about it. How pissed off/happy should I feel about my computer problem/new feature? And who should I thank or say “f**ck u” to? There’s an emotional content as fellow consumer that’s very valuable here. I’m learning from a whole community, not just one bored academic who half-answers my question.

But try as I might, and this is a question for you, o marketing genius, there are some aspects of the SM thing I do not get. A friend of mine signed me up for Facebook. Okay, I’m game, I fought LinkedIn for a couple of years until it actually brought me some very lucrative contracts. So I joined Facebook, or “MyFace”, as I was calling it for awhile until some savvy sprite like you clued me in. Soon after, I started getting emails saying that so and so had bought me a cocktail, somebody else had bitten me, others gave me hugs and kisses. Not a real cocktail, mind you. A mocktail I couldn’t even drink. And, as far as I know, they actually did have to buy it. I think.

What is this? This isn’t the many-to-many learning model I thought would change the world. It’s using the vast power of the internet to waste my valuable time! I’ve heard about another site that allows you to record your every trivial moment for your friends and all eternity. There’s a guy over at MIT doing this, too. It’s like Bucky Fuller’s Dymaxion Chronofile gone crazy, which is sort of an oxymoron in the first place.

Anyway, O Marketing Genius, throw me a line. Give me a clue. Facebook? Why?

Yours in Perfidy and CussWords,

J.

Being the Genius that I am, I have plenty o’ answers to offer my pal J to his well-expressed question. But I’m curious… what do YOU think?

What value [if any] do you see in Facebook as a tool for connecting and engaging with your clients, customers, employees, colleagues, and friends? For building brand awareness? For building your business?

Or is it, as J worries, just another way to waste valuable time?

“Do 39% of Internet users REALLY subscribe to RSS feeds?” and other social media marketing myths dispelled

Today is the last official date for voting in the “World’s Best Presentation Contest” on SlideShare. (Speaking of which… if you haven’t yet voted for “What the F**K is Social Media?!”, DO IT NOW!!!)

Shameless self-promotion aside (but only for a minute), I thought this was a good time to address some of the questions and understandable skepticism that emerged in response to the not-so-subtle messages in said presentation.

So—let’s separate fact from fiction (or at least fact from hyperbole), shall we?

The first batch of “that can’t be right” criticism (and downright bitch-i-tude—you know who you are) was doled out in response to the following statements (from slides 11-16):

  • 73% of active online users have read a blog
  • 45% have started their own blog
  • 39% subscribe to an RSS feeds
  • 57% have joined a social network
  • 55% have uploaded photos
  • 83% have watched video clips

And now, for the shocking truth:
The Genius herself was more than a bit surprised by these numbers. You might even say they were the inspiration for the big ole “F**K!” that became the content of slide 46.

But the fact is, I didn’t pull them out of my cute little ass… they actually came from Universal McCann’s Comparative Study on Social Media Trends, April 2008, and they’re based on a series of surveys they conducted with over 17,000 respondents across 29 countries.

In Universal McCann’s own words:

“All surveys are self completion and the data collected is entirely quantitative. Every market is representative of the 16-54 Active Internet Universe. In this Wave 17,000 internet users in 29 countries were interviewed. To be included you need to be using the internet everyday or every other day.”

So, there!

The next pile of skeptical poo was flung at these juicy tidbits:

  • Only 18% of TV ad campaigns generate positive ROI
  • 90% of people who can skip TV ads, do.
  • Only 14% of people trust advertisements

And did these little beauties come from betwixt my perfectly peach-shaped buns?

Again—NO.

They came from a useful little book called Connected Marketing: The Viral, Buzz and Word of Mouth Revolution by Justin Kirby and Paul Marsden (buy a copy here).

Just for giggles, take a look at some of the other painfully compelling data you’ll find within its pages:

  • Average return in sales for every $1 spent on advertising: 54 cents!!!
  • The increase in TV advertising costs (CPM) in the past decade: 256%
  • Proportion of B2B marketing campaigns resulting in falling sales: 84%
  • The increase needed in advertising spend to add 1-2% in sales: 100%

Say it with me now: YIKES!!!!!!!!!!

Last but not least, a few people got their panties all in a bunch about the use of http://www.mystarbucksidea.com and the apparent lack of “real” case studies or ROI data.

[Here’s me rolling my eyes]

So, fine, I’ll satisfy your incessant and moderately annoying need for numbers by providing you with a few details on NikePlus.com (others to follow in future posts—maybe). If you want to learn more NOW, you’ll just have to hire me or invite me to speak at your next event.

Here goes:

The Genius Behind NikePlus.com!

Nike’s social media play did two things that most brands fall shamefully short on:

    1) They created a playground for anyone passionate about the activity enabled by the product (whether they owned Nike products or not)
    2) They enabled relationship-building with consumers who do own their product(s) that goes way beyond the initial purchase.

And here’s how they did it….

First, the smart folks at Nike recognized 3 simple things about their target audience:

    1. People who love to run, love to listen to music while running
    2. People who love to listen to music while running typically use an iPod to do so
    3. People who love to run like to measure and track their distance/time

Next, the smart folks at Nike created an online experience that caters directly to these three user objectives. They partnered with Apple to bring iTunes into the mix, offering celebrity running mixes (and a whole lot more), and developed products and online tools (like the ability to track runs, challenge other runners in the community, and engage in competitive events locally) that supported and enhanced the offline experience.

Since its launch in May 2006, the NikePlus.com community has not only grown but THRIVED, earning the brand a much-deserved Cannes Lions 2007 award and lots of positive press.

“But what about numbers? Where’s the ROI? WHERE’S THE BEEF?!”

Feast your eyes on this, my friends! As of February, 2008, Nike+ members have:

• Run over 50,000,000 miles
• Logged over 14,000,000 runs
• Issued over 450,000 challenges
• Created “the world’s largest running club” with >75,000,000 members!!!!!!

And here’s the crown jewel:

  • 40% of community members who didn’t own Nike+ ended up BUYING!
  • 94% of consumers agreed to recommend NikePlus.com to a friend

When was the last time your marketing campaign yielded a 40% conversion-to-sales ratio?

I rest my case.

Now, if you STILL haven’t done so, it’s time to go ahead and vote for the Genius’ presentation here.

“They like me! They really like me!”

Last night I had the distinct pleasure of presenting What the F**K is Social Media? to Boston’s own Ladies Who Launch. The presentation was very well received, and man was it FUN to drop the F-bomb so many times! So much so, that I’ve decided to use a healthy dose of profanity in every presentation I write from this day forward. Doesn’t that sound f**king Genius?

Cursing aside, I must admit that in all my many years of being a Bonafide Marketing Genius, never have I so personally benefitted from the magic and momentum of this beloved thing we call the World Wide Web—and more specifically, from the magic and momentum of it’s offspring: social media.

Here’s what I mean.

At 4:00pm on July 2, 2008, I posted What the F**K is Social Media on Slideshare.net. I then sent an email to about a half dozen contacts who I thought would be interested in the material, and asked them to “vote” for it in the “World’s Greatest Presentation Contest.” A short while later, it appeared on Twitter (thanks @TDefren!) and found its way onto a few blogs, including Three Minds, Sixty Second View, Robert Paterson’s Blog, and numerous others.

By the end of the day, it had been viewed about 300 times.

By the end of the next day (July 3), >900 times.

July 4: >2700 times.

July 5: 4000 times.

As of this morning, it has been viewed >15,000 times, embedded on 209 other sites, favorited by 200 people, and [at least for now] is the most embedded slideshow this month and is in the top 25 most embedded slideshows of all time.

Meanwhile, all this buzz has resulted in >150 new Twitter followers (from all corners of the world), dozens of new connections on LinkedIn and Facebook, multiple “expertise” and speaking requests (the Genius particularly loves those!), and a Monster Truck-sized boost in blog traffic.

Do I hear a “Whoop Whoop!” By golly, I believe that I DO!

Some of you may look at these numbers and say “Big F**King deal. Who would expect any less from a Genius?” Others of you may be drooling with envy, or frozen—like a deer in headlights—at the sheer awesomeness of it. But the truth, my darlings, is that it is amazing—a true testament to the global, networked, constantly-sharing, engaged community that is the lifeblood of social media. That IS social media.

In other words, I owe it all to YOU. And I thank you. I may not be able to fit my head through the door any longer, but F**K it, I’m grateful, and I’m thrilled! Yee-HA!

In addition to arming me with juicy numbers to share and inflating my already super-sized ego, my dear online friends have also submitted a few fantastic comments that I’d like to share.

First, there was this one:

[Identity kept private since the chap sent me this little gem via email, claiming he wanted to protect ME from embarrassment. I’m not kidding.]

“I say: F**k social media 🙂 . From a personal point of view: the bubble will burst again and all that is left is face-2-face communication and interaction. From a professional point of view: a service or a product that targets the baby boomers for instance will not be sold over the internet. Check the stats… And only the top 10 of strong brands will survive via on line communication, creating buzz and brand awareness, not added value.

So, why should I get on the train? Give me one good reason ☺”

Um… did you somehow skip slides 6-44? Jesus, dude. I gave you 5 REALLY good reasons—which is 5 reasons more than you have for being such a dumbass.

And this one from Roger Martin:

Terrific f**king presentation. Marta, will you run for President … please? I’m a former political and investigative journalist who has owned and managed PR firms for the past 17 years. We are leaping into social marketing, and I’ve made your slideshow required viewing for all staff. (Maybe they’ll stop hitting the porn sites?)

To which I can only respond… No, Roger, they will never stop hitting the porn sites. But a guy can dream.