Tuesday, 20 October 2009

The 7 in 1 media agency. With extra blades.

Windows 7 comes out on Thursday. Are you excited?


Me neither.

In marketing Windows 7, it strikes me that Microsoft have got the same problem that a lot of advertisers face - there's nothing new to say. Windows XP works fine. So does Vista, whatever the moaners say. What do we need to upgrade for? We'll end up on this new one when the whole PC's upgraded in a couple of years and that's fine. Microsoft are going to be forced to invent a compelling reason to upgrade, or maybe just suggest that it's amazing and new and the bestest thing ever! without actually explaining why.

Hopefully they'll do better than this though.

It's the problem that gives us marketing campaigns for Gillette razors with ridiculous numbers of blades and my personal favourite, the Finish 2 in 1, 3 in 1, 7 in 1, Max in 1 Powerball detergent. (Seriously, the old one was fine...)

"You need new news," cry the agencies. "It's what makes advertising work."

So we invent news. More blades, battery powered, with sparkly bits and powerballs.

Fine, it's what we do.

Then I thought about media agencies. We market ourselves to clients all the time. Where's our new news? Twitter? Ad skipping? Spotify?

Remember the Red Button? That was going to be huge. Honda were using it to make interactive TV ads. If you Google for Red Button now, the only media references you get* are from the BBC and from Channel 4 switching it off. Next big thing in advertising? Yeah right.

We're in competition with each other in selling to clients and I suppose at least we're consistent; we're doing what we tell our clients to do and inventing news. Lets face it though, most innovation in marketing is another blade on a razor - upping the price but getting the same result. Not long ago, Gillette started putting a single blade on the back of their razors, because there are now so many on the front that you can only shave big areas with it. It's a metaphor for the kind of thinking that's leading us back to basics. We've actually convinced ourselves that the 'news' is important enough to take our eye off the job we were doing pretty well before. It isn't. It's a sales technique.

Our clients know it too. It's how they're driving down the margins - turning media planning into a commodity. Without genuine news and innovation, everything eventually becomes a commodity. What starts off as clever and innovative becomes mainstream and before long, everybody's doing it. In FMCG terms, media agency clients are buying Own Label.

* On the first five pages, then I got bored. But you get the point.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't help a few wry smiles as I read this.

The multi-blade razor is a great allegory for the bullsh*t-ridden waffle being churned out by self-proclaimed social media 'experts' or media planning charlatans.

I especially liked the reference to buying Own Label - that's one I'll be dropping into a few conversations in the coming days!

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