According to Jonathan Trenn, over at Marketing Conversation — Bob Garfield’s “Chaos Scenario” may start locally — the world of advertising is in a place of chaos — spanning the dead zone between traditional advertising methods and new media advertising.
Bob Garfield’s “Chaos Scenario” may start locally
If you haven’t read Bob Garfield’s presentations of how advertising will evolve over the next few years (Part 1 and Part 2), then you should. He calls this the “Chaos Scenario”…a perfect metaphor for what he describes. In it, he argues that traditional advertising is dying out as media usage and consumer behavior are changing. Much of the change has its roots in the rise of the internet as a marketing vehicle. But, Garfield points out, new methods and practices have yet to fully pan out. And many companies haven;t come to grips with this new and show no signs of doing it any time soon. This is going to cause (my interpretation) chaos as traditional media outlets struggle to get advertisers while these advertisers struggle to figure out how to advertise effectively with their limited knowledge.
For the most part, I agree with his thesis. Most major traditional marketing-oriented mediums are becoming less effective as promotional vehicles. Media usage is more dispersed, more personal, and thus, more controlled by the end user. And many times those end users today are choosing to ignore or avoid the advertising messages that are send their way. Whether it ends up being as dire as Garfield suggests, I have no idea, but changes are coming and neither the advertising mediums nor the advertisers themselves are ready for it.
And I think local is where we’ll see it first. I see this happening one the local level over the next three years. Goldman Sachs is predicting that traditional local advertising vehicles – local TV, newspapers and radio stations – are going to get hit particularly hard during this recession. I’m going to agree, and the key world there is “particularly”. That’s because local advertising is hurting anyway as advertisers have already been pulling back because it doesn’t work like it used to. Add to that further cuts in ad spend and you could get a serious amount of casualties on the local media market.
In the above graphs, we can see that newspaper get hit the hardest. Readership is down in the first place. That’s permanent. People have stopped buying newspapers for whatever reason – a lack of interest in news, having news available online, and getting quick news capsules in other mediums. A poor economy has little or no effect on newspaper buying. We won’t be seeing a rebound once the economy bounce back.
The collapse of players in the local ad market will reduce the options for advertisers. Yet the demand will probably still meet the supply. So we’ll see further erosion. Craigslist, satellite radio, and cable TV will make this so.
One of the alternatives will be local online advertising. But I don’t see many local advertisers ready for this. I still see most local companies that are likely to advertise having little more than brochureware websites. I see very little use of local Google Adsense coming from traditional businesses. And, again, the websites are neither optimized for online search nor are they set up with the correct landing pages for potential ads. Local businesses SHOULD be developing internet strategies, but the decision makers in them don’t go to our conferences, they don’t read our blogs, they’re not on Twitter. Nor are they probably on Facebook or MySpace. They’re far from it.
So while they’ll be temporarily holding back ad dollars during tough economic times, they’ll be likely losing some of their traditional advertising choices. And they won’t be ready or equipped to start marketing on new media – because they’ve chosen to not take the time to learn it. The end result? Chaos.
I call it white knuckle syndrome: holding on to the handholds you have, frozen on the face of the cliff, because you don’t know where the handholds of the future are. This chaos is pretty amazing to watch as the economy pitches and GM bails on Super Bowl.
Advertising knows it needs to jump off the locomotive before it pitches into the gorge (the bridge is out!) but reaching out to the proffered hand of the guy in the helicopter seems pretty risky too. But, as the current handholds become chalky and you start to feel them crumble under your weight, you’ll need to find somewhere else to go, and quick!
I tell anyone who will listen to me that the current crop of advertisement methods is too ephemeral. The moment you spend the money and your ad runs is the moment it is either gone to the grave — unless you’re smart and willing to keep it alive, in conversation, online on YouTube for the spots or on a blog somewhere for the print work — or you will feel compelled to keep on throwing money at it ad infinitum, because contextual ads, banner ads, etc, only last as long as you write checks.
What my specialty is is online conversation marketing, online public relations, and online earned media. When you earn peoples’ attention and when they choose to speak about you, your clients, and your services, then you have a gift that keeps on giving — this is content that lasts well past the campaign and into the future. This is both the sort of thing that Google loves — it is SEO catnip — and it is just the sort of content that flows, both upstream to A-list bloggers and to mainstream media and down to your readers, aggregators, and to other bloggers and other blogs. If you want to see some examples of powerfully successful blogger outreaches, check out International Medical Corps (IMC) 2008, Survivor Corps Operation Survivor 2008, and Fresh Air Fund Summer 2008, Jerry White’s I Will Not Be Broken book promotion. In many cases, these campaigns are close to a year old, yet they still still live in hundreds and hundreds of blogs and feed Google’s index until all of these blogs are taken down. It is really amazing how effective this sort of “advertising” promotion works. What’s better, when the campaign is over and the client “turns off” our tap, the content continues living and isn’t just shut off like it is with banners, buttons, and contextual advertising. Very interesting, very cool, and powerfully effective.
Remember how much fun Communication Arts is to page through? — CA is intoxicating! Well, every ad you make can be as interesting, as long as you’re willing to come out of your art department and share your process, share your experience, share your steps. Keeping those ephemera alive through narrative, sharing, conversation, and story, is what social media is, it is what customer service is, it is surely what branding should be.
Anyway, There is a lot of opportunity in this time of chaos, of this time of transition. The same sort of transition (and opportunity) happened when PCs came online, replacing the IBM Selectric II; when the Internet changed E-Commerce, threatening to eviscerate bricks and mortar stores, and it is happening now, more than ever, with advertising, marketing, and PR.
To me, Chris Brogan said it best the other day on Twitter, “customer service is the new PR.*” Looking at what @comcastcares has been able to do, customer service is the new PR, the new marketing, and the new advertising.
So, as those handholds start to get chalk and begin to crumble, it is important to at least set your eyes on a new handhold — or maybe a helping hand — before your original handhold turns to powder.
I know there is so much money — huge buckets of hot cash — in TV commercials (and you’re still all stoked from your experience — and profit — from the presidential campaign) but you need to diversify! You need to start spreading your weight over a number of holds: left and right foot, left and right hand — and hopefully a belay man and some crampons and a few anchors and camming devices… as much as you can do.
This is a time of chaos, and your mistakes will all be gentle and you will be admired for doing cool stuff, so it is a perfect time to make the leap. Right now, SEO, SEM, affiliate and marketing firms, PR firms, and social media consultants are doing ad buys, are learning advertising, are becoming severely profitable.
They drink your milkshake.
But it is not too late. It is a time of chaos, it is a time to take risks. Learn from what has happened to your cousins, PR and main stream media. Evolve or perish. Yes, these will be interesting times for Madison Avenue and around the world.
And for you who have yet to do the reading, please check out Cluetrain Manifesto and Naked Conversation.
Oh, and no, I have not read Bob Garfield’s original presentations of how advertising will evolve over the next few years (Part 1 and Part 2); however, I plan to — and I plan to say more after I do. I merely intended to cross-post Trenn’s article from Marketing Conversation — I just didn’t realize I had such a strong opinion on the issue until I started writing my standard introduction and analysis paragraph.
* I can’t find the quote that Chris Brogan made, however, I can find my quoting of him on Twitter — maybe someone can help me find his original Tweet.