At PebblePost, we strive for a diverse culture that encourages people to express their individuality. We don’t want marionettes.
Still, when it comes to the current state of marketing and advertising, we all speak with one voice. Marita Scarfi, our CFO and Head of West Coast Operations, recently summed up what we see industry-wide in five pointed words: “an amazing amount of wrong.”
Where do we begin?
Digital is the most logical starting point for an advertising autopsy. But I’ve already done my share of digital bashing (you can read examples here, here and here) and it’s almost too easy. Still, I can’t resist pointing out that when Procter & Gamble cut their marketing budget by $140 million in Q2 because they didn’t like the environment where their digital ads appeared, their sales actually went up.
Let that sink in for a moment. For a major U.S. brand, doing nothing is literally more effective than spending $140 million on digital ads.
Digital is so bad that other channels can seem good by comparison. But we’re not letting them off the hook.
A broadcasting broad side
Have you listened to the radio lately? If so, how long did you last? The ad blocks are mind-numbing. In fact, if you jump in your car to run a short errand and the station you regularly listen to is just going to a commercial break, you might as well just switch the radio off. There’s a good chance you won’t hear any actual programming before you get where you’re going.
Apparently, a lot of people leave the radio on but mentally tune out during breaks. That’s the only way to explain an industry finding that “even spot breaks of six minutes or longer [retained] 85% of the audience level before the commercials began.” (Emphasis added.)
Still, what program director in their right mind would do something that’s proven to drive away even 15% of their audience?
That ought to be a rhetorical question. It isn’t. TV routinely commits this idiocy, too. In 2013, one exasperated viewer complained to the local newspaper, of all places, after determining that a 61-minute stretch of “The Expendables” on Spike consisted of “30 minutes of commercials and 31 minutes of movie.”
Like publishers in digital, TV programming execs began to dial back the excessive commercials only when the backlash became so severe that they could no longer ignore it.
A blue sky solution
I could go on and on, citing examples from every channel of marketers disrespecting the consumer. (How about those magazine ads for cologne that can induce an allergic reaction?) But probably the most telling commentary I can think of was an off-the-cuff answer I gave during the Pacific Crest Emerging Technology Summit in Vail when someone asked if there were any unadulterated marketing channels left.
“Yeah,” I said. “Skywriting.”
Everyone laughed. The sad part is, I wasn’t joking.