On my way down to New Orleans for Memorial Day I read that the New Orleans Times Picayune will no longer publish seven days a week. To save money, it’ll hit driveways on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only.
I was on the flight down when I got the news. On wifi. On my computer.
See the connection…I mean, the writing on the wall?
I know. It’s sad. Hey, I shell to hold the Wall Street Journal every morning. I don’t own a Kindle. I gave my iPad to my two-year old. One of my biggest clients makes more paper than just about anyone on earth. I like paper.
I like horses, too. I just don’t use them to get around much anymore.
It’s easy to understand the end of newspapers, at least the paper part. Fewer readers, less ad money, deteriorating product, fewer readers, less ad money, deteriorating product, repeat until dead.
What’s tougher, though, is understanding the end of news. No no, not ALL news. We’ll always care what Justin Bieber does.
But what about so-called “local” news? Conventional wisdom says digital picks up the slack. But, the only person losing more money than Mr. Paper Publisher on local news right now is Mr. Tim Armstrong at AOL. He’s trying to build an all-digital local news network, and it ain’t going very well (quick, tell me how much time you spent last week-year-lifetime on patch.com/yourneighborhood).
Junk mail went from paper spam to digital spam no problem. But local news? Are people just not consuming it like they used to? A lost appetite? Hard to imagine. But, like they say, follow the money. For local news, it’s not in paper and it’s not online.
Maybe the radio guys should sharpen their knives. You know, come to think of it, there are a lot of all-news stations popping up on FM lately. Hmmm. We’ll listen to local news but we won’t read it? Now that Twitter and Facebook tell us what’s really important in our lives, do we only really care about traffic and weather, locally?
We are, clearly, in the digital age. We are connected to more people, places and events farther away than ever before. By a lot. Is that having a profound effect on our definition of “local?” This is starting to sound like a book topic, not a blog post. So I’ll wrap it up.
I didn’t know what a picayune was until now. I just looked it up (Wikipedia not Brittanica). It was a Spanish coin, worth half a real. The word stems from the French picaillon, which derives from the Provencal picaioun, meaning “small coin”.
And here’s the killer, as Wikipedia highlights: “By extension, picayune can mean “trivial” or “of little value.”
What does that say about the Times?
By now you know Facebook filed yesterday to go public. I learned about it on Twitter.
Shortly thereafter, Digiday Editor-In-Chief Brian Morrissey astutely posted five initial thoughts about Facebook advertising.
He got me thinking: Facebook sees advertising as, basically, an “afterthought,” and, yet, they did $3.15 billion in advertising last year.
Pity the rest of us who spend every waking moment thinking of little but advertising and would celebrate, and retire on, the rounding error there.
Three point one billion dollars.
Do you know what it costs, advertising-wise, to get, say, 80% of America to know a new brand? You do? We’ve been trying to figure that out for decades. But, let’s say $100 million is a safe bet. OK, let’s say $200 million is a sure thing.
$200 million. Or, put another way, $.2 billion. As in, the bit that’s to the right of the decimal point on Facebook’s ad number. Like, the part you’d just drop if you were in a hurry. So, even though Facebook takes a page from the “Good to Great” model and notes they have but one measly percent of all the ad money spent on every type of advertising imaginable ON EARTH, trust me, $3.15 billion is a big advertising number.
Speaking of Facebook ads, they’re puny, easy to ignore and not exactly setting the world on fire performance-wise (Adweek Report: Facebook Ad Performance Is Abysmal, Jan 31, 2011). Some folks still don’t know Facebook even has ads. My kids know about them because they click on them by mistake.
Pretty much what you’d expect, really, from an afterthought.
Can you remember a Facebook ad? I can. It’s for a pair of pants that’s supposed to make a man’s butt look better. I think it’s for a brand called Bonobos, or something like that. I’ve never bought a pair, but I’ve seen the ad a lot.
Outside of certain CIA budgets, advertising on Facebook may be the quietest $3.15 billion ever spent.
So, to me, the fascinating question is this: why did advertisers spend $3.15 billion on Facebook ads last year?
I think the answer is “irrational exuberance” in Internet adland.
Social media is all the rage. Everyone’s on Facebook. Brands want to be “Liked” by lots of people. And, when you advertise on Facebook, not only can you mirco-target your “afterthoughts” to microscopically-precise audience segments, but you can also track in glorious detail the effect of your little ads, complete with charts, graphs, colors, percentage changes and conversion ratios. And there is practically no barrier to entry. All you need’s a credit card and fifty bucks or so to get started.
It’s really quite fun to see those little ads actually grow those numbers week after week. “And here you can see the number of people who ‘Liked’ us grew another 2.7% this month.” Very gratifying, really, for the brand folks who’ve always had to sing and dance a little when the time came for demonstrating the latest campaign’s success.
Oh, but, there is one thing that very clean & simple, eternally-heading-in-the-right-direction Facebook ad dashboard doesn’t show: how much more (or less) soap you sold last month.
Hey, as long as my boss is cool with that, so am I.
Alas, the lure of riding a wave with eternal growth that’s socially encouraged and cheap and easy to invest in is deceiving marketers about the real market value of what they’re buying.
If you bought a house in 2006, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
It’s Super Bowl time. The ad community is lathering up for the “Oscars of the ad business.”
I’m setting my sights pretty low.
One person’s view, but Super Bowl ads lately have underwhelmed. I’m trying to remember one now. Oh yes, GoDaddy. Well, I don’t remember the ad, exactly. I do know what GoDaddy does, though, which puts me in the minority. Since they’ve been peddling soft porn Super Bowl spots I’ve purchased ten or so domain names. From Network Solutions.
Wait, I’m being unfair. It’s not really the Super Bowl. It’s advertising in general.
Talk to me about the great ad campaigns of all time.
What, the crowd-sourced, do-it-yourself snack work didn’t make the list? Nothing with chimps? How about the new light beer campaign launched on the Big Game last year (They did launch one, didn’t they? Don’t they always?) Wait, pop-culture-driven colas always have good work. Oh, right, they did a fundraiser instead. Or, maybe that was the year before.
Why are the all the truly great ad campaigns things of the past?
Because it’s too hard to measure their success. Here, have a look –
CEO: “So, that ad campaign you ran last year, how’d it do?”
CEO: “Really? How do you know?”
CMO: “Everyone loves it. Ad recall and brand image numbers were through the roof. We shattered our purchase intent norms. And sales rose 17%.”
CEO: “How do you know the sales increase came from the advertising?”
CMO: “Well, you can’t know for absolutely certain, but when all those other numbers go up and then sales go up, we feel pretty good that they’re related.”
CEO: “You feel? The guys from Google don’t feel anything. They know. They always know for an absolute fact how many people clicked and then purchased.”
CMO: “Yes, well, people can’t click on our TV ads to buy yogurt. At least not yet. And, even if they could, I’m not sure they would.”
CEO: “I need better than ‘I feel.’ The board could give a crap about how you ‘feel.’ I need to see the ROI on that campaign. We spent $40 million on it. How much more yogurt did we sell because of it?”
CMO: “It’s not like online advertising. We can’t just see some kind of definitive conversion ratio.”
CEO: “You’re fired.”
Trust me, the next CMO doesn’t try to make anyone “feel” anything. That’s why you can watch 100 commercials this week and not “feel” like buying a single product advertised.
What a bummer!
Meanwhile, rest assured people are getting promoted out of cubicles everywhere counting all those website hits and Facebook likes and Twitter mentions, scrutinizing conversion ratios and pay-per-click trends, and analyzing which mobile platforms yielded higher page view numbers.
I hope it’s a good game at least.
I love the song Strawberry Letter 23 by the Brothers Johnson but I had to buy the whole album to get it
Maybe the answer to the agency problem isn’t an agency. At least, not in the way we’ve always thought about them.
Agencies today are like albums in an iTunes world. But the talent and technology does exist to change the paradigm so clients get what they want more efficiently and cost-effectively.
On an album there were usually a few songs you really liked. But to hear them, you had to buy the whole album. You bought a lot of tracks you didn’t want so you could hear your favorites.
Now, of course, you just buy the songs you want.
And, you pay only ninety-nine cents for them, not nine bucks for the album. You get more of what you want for less. The record business, on the other hand, gets beaten to death.
Clients today need and want more songs but are kind of stuck buying albums.
Imagine being a client today. You need: tv, print, radio, out-of-home, online banners, paid search, organic search, mobile apps, mobile banners, mobile search, mobile text, a Facebook page, Twitter feeds, and a LinkedIn profile, not to mention qr codes, branded content, in-game advertising, product placement and, now that your MySpace page doesn’t matter and your boss gave up on a viral YouTube video, you also need a location-based check-in program and, for now at least, a Groupon deal.
As a client, where do you go for all that?
To agencies. And not just one or two of them.
And what, exactly do you get at each agency? Well, there’s the receptionist, the CEO, the CFO, the bookkeeper, the lawyer, the CMO, the account guy, the senior account guy, the intern, the strategist, the project manager, the planner, the comms channel guy, and, thankfully, some creatives , developers and designers who come up with ideas and make something for you to use.
You want a TV ad? Buy the ad agency album. Mobile app? That’s on a different album. How about search? Different album.
That’s a lot of albums. A lot of receptionists and bookkeepers and account guys and senior account guys and CEOs and CMOs and strategists you have to buy just to get the actual products and services you want.
As a client, wouldn’t it be nice to go to one place and get everything you want from one place?
Wait, I think I hear [fill in name of ad agency holding company CEO]: “We have everything you need in our portfolio of two thousand three hundred and forty-four companies, and we will provide you with a fully-integrated team of world-class talent in every possible discipline led by a single point of contact who can manage these resources even though they reside in sixteen different profit centers and four countries.”
No need to waste space here detailing the hideousness of this fantasy. Google “Enfatico.”
The people who actually produce the things that clients need are like songs. And, for the past 100 years, these people have worked mostly at agencies. They’ve been packaged in agency vinyl.
Right now, there is no iTunes for marketing and advertising solutions.
But, there could be. All you need are talented people un-tethered from agency anchors, and the right way to connect them with client needs and projects.
As for the former – the independent talent? That inventory’s growing every day. If you’re great at what you do and can make a good living enriching yourself and your own life rather than adding another million or two to [fill in name of ad agency holding company CEO again], then guess what?
The second part — creating the right way to connect these folks with client needs and projects — is not as fully formed.
Emphasis on the right way.
The genius of iTunes wasn’t the uncoupling of songs from albums and making them available as singles on an mp3 player. Kazaa and a host of others beat Apple to that by a few years. They also made us part with the better part of too many nights and some portion of our hard drives, thanks to a brutal user experience and rampant viruses.
Apple made it clean, easy and legal. They secured the delivery.
For the new agency model (environment? operating system?) to work, clients will need their form of secure delivery, too.
Specifically, they will need strategic, reliable and cohesive teams.
Maybe the agency of the future will be more like a producer or talent manager who provides clients with just the right, and right amount of, talent, and guarantees effective delivery. They’ll do this by dealing with a lot of contracts and admin and coordination you’ll never see – just like iTunes gets you the songs you want, never you mind how they make it happen.
Impossible? When was the last time you bought a CD…