‘We need to fundamentally change the way we think about advertising, marketing and channels’

Do marketers pretend traditional media never really went away, or create digital ads which risk being easily forgotten, or go back to the drawing board and ask some tough questions, wonders brand consultant Jörg Dietzel

The life or a marketer has never been easy. These days, it’s almost impossible.

Yesterday, in a meeting with my publisher, we spoke about book titles. I suggested something with ‘Mad Men’, my favourite TV series of all times. “Nah,” he replied. “Most people are too young to remember.”

Sad, but true. Gone are not only the days of Mad Men, including the 5.00pm drink tray, packs of Luckies and fabulous shots on fabulous islands – “because we need the early morning light in Mauritius”. Gone are also the days when as a marketer – or agency creative – I could choose between a 45 second television commercial, three magazine ads, a newspaper ad and a billboard. Add a direct mailer, if I am feeling adventurous. These would allow me to reach the vast majority of my audience, and if done right, would win me an award in Cannes.

Yes, but we have digital now – I hear you say. True, but so far it has only existed as an afterthought, an appendix to the campaign created by placing the TVC on Facebook, hopefully re-edited, and sending a social media photographer to the print shoot to take some additional, “unconventional” shots for Instagram.

The fact that our strict rules for how to show the product somehow don’t apply to social speaks volumes to how we – collectively, marketers and advertising agencies – still think and where our priorities lie.

And while video did not kill the radio star, and digital will not replace traditional media (look at an online brand like Mr Porter publishing a good old-fashioned newspaper, the Mr Porter Post), it will kill traditional advertising.

So clients and agencies face a dilemma: pretend that traditional media still rules and continue to produce expensive TV commercials and print ads that nobody will see or care about.

Or create digital ads that are overlooked, swiped away or – more and more on platforms like Instagram – perceived as annoying, creating a potential backlash for the brand. And you can work with influencers, if you can find the right one and you trust not just their numbers but also that they will show your product in a way that is neither cringe-worthy nor damaging the brand.

Then how about content? Ah, the magic word of the late teens, with marketers left and right establishing “content factories” where much money is invested into online content that in a best case scenario will be seen and remembered, minus the brand behind it. “100 million views!” tends to be all that matters; who cares who and where they are and whether they will ever be in the market for your product or service.

So what’s left? If traditional TV is dead, and people binge-watch Netflix series from Queer Eye Three to Selling Sunset, then how about good old-fashioned product placement? You know, like the Aston Martins that are being driven, and crashed, in so many Bond movies. Place your product in the popular series and see what happens. Or, better still, create a whole series around your brand, like Formula One on Netflix, and hope that the glamour of the story will rub off on your brand. That might just work.

The truth is: We need to fundamentally change the way we think about advertising. And marketing. And channels. And maybe ask ourselves, “What would Don Draper do?” One idea. On a board. In a room. Making one point about the brand. Then translated into whichever channel can reach our target. Desperate? Maybe. But if the idea is big enough, it could do the trick, across markets and channels.

Jörg Dietzel has worked across Europe and Asia, in agencies and on the client side, most recently as global head of creative at Audi. He runs his own brand consultancy in Singapore and teaches branding and advertising at SMU


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