Garfield, Armageddon and Dead Ideas

This week's Drift was to have been part three of our series on "Fusion Selling" but that will have to wait. I mean, the world doesn't implode every week, ya know? Turns out Bob Garfield, the information age Jeremiah, was right after all. His dire "Chaos Scenario" (in which the media/advertising infrastructure collapses, venerable media brands fold bad poker hands, and feral cats carry off small children) was validated just this week in Advertising Bob Garfield himself. In Garfield's own words (in the online version, anyhow): "The sky is falling, the frog in the pot has come to a boil and, oh yeah, we are, most of us, exquisitely, irretrievably fucked." Bob's Chaos Scenario states that because of fragmentation, a shift to consumer control and hard economics, media and advertising today amount to a failed state. Not merely noisy, corrupt and dangerous like, say, Pakistan. I'm talking failed! Think Somalia in the mid 90s... "Black Rock Down," if you will.

So what do you do when you've got a failed state on your hands? For those of us who see the media/communications/advertising business being rebuilt on a digital core (remember that Bob says only "most of us" are exquisitely, know) it's critical that we sharpen our own view of the world and be prepared to lead. To help with that clarity, I'm borrowing a premise from Matt Miller's "The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity." Miller's book focuses on dead economic ideas, but there are plenty of dead marketing and advertising ideas - both analog and digital - that will hamstring us forever if we don't clean them out.

I see dead ideas...and they don't even know they're dead.

Get Out of the Transportation Business. Moving people from place to place on the Web is really stupid. We spend all our time and effort pulling someone away from what they're actually doing and try to get them to come to our website and look at some "advertising." It's led us to kowtow to a brain-dead metric like 'click-through' for too long. This is not just about marketers and agencies; sites do the same thing when we tell our marketing people to 'get more people and page views in travel' or auto or whatever. The future is about connecting and engaging consumers where they are, not where we wish they were.

No More Stars, Only Galaxies. Closely aligned with the Dead Idea above, we've got to get over our site-centric view of the world. Yes content and context matter, but walled gardens are not the answer. Even the best content and community creator should be fixated on distribution and network building. Pay attention to the "net" part of "internet."

Church and State? Welcome to Theocracy. We've taken a 20th Century approach in segregating and separating 'advertising' from the 'editorial voice' of our sites and applications. The result has been the creation of ad ghettos at the top and sides of our pages where the eye never goes. Marketers will want to be where the action (interest, community, engagement) is. It's up to us to creatively blend marketing into our environments, both local and distributed. And if we sit back and blame the agencies for not having the creative or the inclination to pursue it, then we deserve the irrelevance and decline we will most surely reap. Everything is integrated. Everything.

Stop Worshipping at the Altar of Advertising. When I started in the advertising business 29 years ago, my boss at the agency (yes, I worked at an ad agency) sent me to ride on the back of a beer truck and deliver kegs to restaurants for our client at Dos Equis beer. I wonder if anybody on either the media company or agency side ever does that anymore? I think we've created an "advertising class" that is now two generations removed from the business of really selling stuff and serving consumers. We write media plans, plug stuff into planning systems and compete for CLIOs and other ad awards. For too long, we have treated the manufacturer/marketer - the producer and seller of goods and services - as an ATM to finance our insular, sexy little business. We all need to resign from that business today.

There is No Silver Bullet. Google's done some remarkable, transformational things. But it's also created an expectation that there are other Googles out there waiting to hatch. This has in turn led to a lot of short term thinking and a paucity of vision. The future is not a roll of lottery tickets or a roll of the dice: it's about rolling up your sleeves. While innovation and revolutionary thinking are a permanent part of our new landscape, they will come from committed players and not drive-by entrepreneurs. The easy money has vanished, but the long term creation of real value has just begun.


Reaction to "Fusion Selling Part 2: Profiling the New Seller:"

"I have watched the proliferation of information and technology over the last two decades and the impact on people has been very interesting. Sales people have in effect gone from highly specialized to generalists who have the ability to bring data and experience together to create solutions rather than just slamming and jamming a product/service into an opportunity. Marketing is also in the process of making this conversion. Integration is only possible when a marketer can bring together the various channels leveraging their strengths from both a planning and creative standpoint...These are interesting times we live in." - David Harris, Sr. Advertising Manager, Suzuki, ASMC Automotive Marketing Division