Are The Days Of Mad Men And Big Ideas Dead Or Alive?
Most business people would agree that the digital, social, mobile age has caused massive impacts to the marketing function.
If our goal is creating customers, then we know that customers have become harder to reach. If our goal is to define the insights that drive product innovation, then we know that online and offline communications are exploding and increasing every day. This makes it harder to see where the world is headed.
If our goal is leads or sales, we definitely know that consumers are tuning out our best efforts at reaching them, especially when we are trying to sell something.
When I talk to CMOs, I always ask them about their biggest challenges. The answers generally include things like respect at the board level, their relationship with their CEO, their relationship with sales and digital skills / training.
I have never heard a CMO, or any marketer say they were looking for the next “Big Idea.” But then I read this article in Digiday last month that posed the thought: maybe the big idea isn’t dead after all?
The article kicked off with this really interesting quote from the author:
If I were a CMO? I’d run my brand downtown to the Wall Street office of Droga5 and scream, Fry-like, “Shut up and take my money,” give Dave Droga a blank check, and then go to the lobby and sleep on their couch for two weeks or so, use Droga’s private shower, eat their food, go to New York Dolls with a couple of their chatty account doofs, watch them make it rain singles on strippers — all while their creatives worked 18 hour days on my Big Idea.
If you are not a male, stripper-loving, beer-drinking d-bag, then let me provide a little bit of context. Droga5 is the ad agency behind beer company Newcastle Brown’s “no bollocks” ad campaign.
The author thinks it is the best ad campaign to come by in a long time. Here is the sample he pointed to:
Yes, people still do ad campaigns. And yes, apparently a whole bunch of other people still write exclusively about ad campaigns. I had never seen any of these ads.
I must not be young enough / cool enough / hipster enough. I don’t find anything spectacularly funny or interesting or creative in these ads. But that’s fine. Just one person’s opinion. But I certainly don’t see the “Big Idea” embedded in this work that would warrant the advice that CMOs should write blank checks.
And while we’re at it, I wonder how female CMOs feel about his advice. Do agencies work for female executives or only the alcoholic, perverted males ones?
Seriously, I get “poetic license,” freedom of speech, hyperbole and all that. But come on, man! Someone has to call this crap out.
According to the author, the campaign worked by increasing sales!!!
I’m not sure how he knows that. I’m not sure how he knows that it wasn’t the media spend alone and not the creative. I’m not sure how he isolated all the social interactions the creative generated from the media or the creative itself. But according to him, big ideas generate sales and social engagement is silly.
So, aside from the biased subjectivity and the pathetic attempt at making a compelling argument, I have never really been a big fan of “The Big Idea” mainly because it is impossible to quantify.
It sounds way too close to my favorite marketing term, the “viral video” and also because to get your own “Big Idea” you need to do exactly the kind of black box process described: hand over a blank check to an agency and watch them spend your money in endless brainstorming sessions where each one tries to all TMZ-like outsmart the previous comment with hipster jokes and not-quite mainstream current event references.
But what’s really interesting, is that I’ve never seen any of these ads. Not once. And I actually pay attention to ads. I read Digiday and AdAge and other marketing rags. I follow social commentators. I even watch the show Vikings, that the advertiser sponsored.
So let’s put a nail in the male chauvinism, the outdated ideas, the longing for the Mad Men days when CMOs could write blank checks.
And let’s all accept that consumers ignore the majority of ads, even the good ones.
We live in a world where marketing must be accountable for the results we can prove to the CEO and the sales team. We live in a new era where the best managers get reverse-mentored by their younger and more digital-savvy employees. We live in a digital world where all of us are storytellers and publishers and personal brands. We live in a social and mobile world that hates welcome ads and auto-play videos and interruptions of any kind. And we live in a world of trial and error, test and repeat. So that we can learn what works.
We can’t afford big ideas. We can’t write blank checks. And while advertising has its place, the smart money is on the shift to authentic storytelling from authors and employees and customers.
I put this marketing rant aside for a few weeks and when I came back to read it, I was still feeling the rage. So here you go . . .
But tell me what do you think? Should we still place our bets on the big idea, or that viral video? Are the days of the mad men and the big ideas alive and well or are they long gone?
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