Why do marketers and advertisers hate themselves?


By now you may have seen this video from PHD, an Omnicom Media Group company. Apparently it was made for a conference to “stimulate discussion within the industry.”

Wow. Is it possible that there is an industry conference in our industry where people don’t already know that the world of media has changed, that we have 2 billion new participants in the media landscape, that engagement is the new way to connect and that interruptive messages are a thing of the past?

Why then would someone in our own business want to create a film that is so filled with self-hatred? Are we really ashamed of what we do? There have been plenty of examples of videos and parodies that point out some of the absurdities of our business and the people in it. But at least the good ones (see below) have a sense of humor.



What’s wrong with PHD’s video is that it’s so filled with venom, so contrived and so untrue. Yes we live in an age of social and participation, but people, especially kids, still love advertising. Look no further than VW’s Darth Vader spot, virtually any Apple TV campaign or our own recent FAGE spot (see the comments.)

Yes, a brand that doesn’t invite consumers to collaborate risks everything from attention to loyalty, but there are dozens of visible examples, from Old Spice to Burberry. It’s not like we need a screen filled with phony anger from 12-year-olds to tell us.

And finally, even though PHD is right that consumers will take things into their own hands and create anti-brand content (I’ve done it myself, though with an intent to be constructive), more often than not it will be for a valid reason.

PHD claims they’ve left the video up on YouTube because they value the conversation it’s stimulated, including criticism. I suppose that’s commendable. And they’re not wrong in suggesting there are flaws in aspects of how our industry creates content and does or doesn’t engage with the new consumer.

I just think if they’re attempting to say that they understand the new media frontier, the future video is an odd way to say it.

Cats work better for me.


Thanks to Tim Malbon and Matthew Serge Guy for the links to videos.

19 comments
anthonyablackburn
anthonyablackburn

Brilliant! Today's youth will definitely expect more from their marketing. Brands that do not embrace layered advertising will be dead overnight. Push is out. Pull is where we are headed. Embrace letting the kids pull their information and you will win them over.

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jasonwonline20
jasonwonline20

In 10 years those kids will be victims of the commercialized world not having a clue what is going on in their lives. They will want what the marketers tell them is cool. They use what the marketers tell them is good to use. Instead of using their brains they double tap on their devices ... scary future for them ... not for us, the ones they're blackmailing :-))

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jeannie_chan
jeannie_chan

I'm on the client side, and I'm getting increasingly frustrated with agencies lame attempts in scare tactics. The you-have-no-idea-what-you-are-doing-the-world-is-freaking-changing pitch. What I am finding out each day is that agencies are just as clueless as we are. But, their job is to sell the next big thing and their bright new idea. My job is to be smart enough to know when to write a check for truly smart ideas and when not to be scared into the latest fad.

miketrap
miketrap

Pretentious. Utter. Bullshit. Puh-lease.

CopyCM1
CopyCM1

Oh, please - kids aren't thinking this. That's agency talking for companies talking to agencies to keep the business in the agencies' hands. Agencies know how to do all this stuff ... companies can't do it on their own. Companies, you'd better be listening. We marketers and ad pros don't hate ourselves ... we just are generating mass demand for what we do. Out of the mouths of babes.

JeffShattuck
JeffShattuck

I don't see the self-hatred in this, I just see a repeat of Cisco's Are You Ready campaign. Personally, I think what all the kids in this spot are expressing is understandable, it's just not new. We've always wanted it all, we just don't want to work for it. We feel entitled. In fact, that's what I really see in this spot. A bunch of spoiled brats saying the world had better notice them. Well, guess what, be worth noticing and maybe the world will.

tomcunniff
tomcunniff

It's not self-loathing so much as a mixture of arrogance, naiveté and a profound anxiety about being left behind.

Many people in marketing and advertising suffer from the delusion that the companies they work for are filled with clueless dinosaurs. "Don't they realize that NOBODY does TV advertising anymore? EVERYBODY is doing cool stuff with Foursquare except for us. Do they WANT us to die?"

I'll admit that some companies really do resist change because they are clueless and terrified.

But most change slowly because it's smart. It would be completely irresponsible to discard proven tactics entirely in favor of what's new and hot. A small percentage of the "new and hot" companies will deliver amazing results and be massively important in the future. The vast majority will crash and burn.

Remember when Whoopi Goldberg told you that Flooz was going to completely transform currency? Find me a company or an executive who now regrets taking a way-and-see attitude about that now.

Sprinzette
Sprinzette

I remember enjoying the cat lampoon, far more than the original. As a 21st birthday present to itself, I felt PHD's gift fell pretty short of the mark. It felt less like a provocative ad, and more like a patronising, miss-pitch. If I were PHD I'd see this less as "a wake-up call for the marketing community", and more as call to get better at engagement and appropriate creative solutions. .

NewBusinessHawk
NewBusinessHawk

A great question! Something to think about...

My argument would be this is a symptom of something much larger. Once, long long ago, there was a time where ad agencies and clients were tied at the hip - structures aligned - CEO's/ad agencies communicating almost daily. Peers in the corporate stratus.

Back then the Ad Agency was a titan, a giant that could create markets, whole brands out of thin air, and shape public perception. With the wave of a magic wand (mass comm) sales could skyrocket. Products would fly off the shelf. Or something totally new would be created, like a new market for makeup for young ladies, or first class travel...

Of course it was much easier back then when almost everyone would tune into a show like Ed Sullivan.

What I'm trying to say is in this hyper-marketed world the power of any one marketing effort is severely diminished. CEO's have recognized this and now spend more time with business strategist, management consultants and such... The board room used to be a regular meeting place for the agency, now it’s not.

The rules HAVE changed, and unless marketing firms understand the basic fundamentals of the change many will be just changing deck chairs. Marketing as a vehicle is not in danger – this is a great time to be in the agency world – only the old-school methodologies are in danger. Add to this mix the increasing power of a connected world using “social media” and the rate of change will only increase.

These changes, and more, leave many of the more traditional firms increasingly out of touch with the new roles being forced upon them. Vendor? Commodity? Having to deal with procurement? NOT MEETING IN THE BOARD ROOM? wtf? So many try to be cool, hip, with it, buy going out to the social media party in a leisure suit. Thus we see something like this... they don't hate themselves... just the changes being forced on them.

And as iboy states, there are many many marketing firms that get it.

So my question would be does your firm live in the new changing world? Or is it stuck in the past, trapped by old perceptions long out of date. If so, then by all means, hate away!

Just my 2 cents.

Bob Sanders

Sanders Consulting Group

Blog: http://sandersconsulting.com/newbusinesshawk/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/newbusinesshawk

iboy
iboy

Hi Edward and all,

The video was part of PHD's 21st anniversary campaign ... a 21st century look at advertising from a 21-year old agency. It did not quite achieve the desired outcome. ;-)

Two good friends of mine work at their UK office, and they were really pissed off about this complete and utter disaster. It wasn't created to spark debate. That's spin. It was supposed to be smart, edgy and reflective of tomorrow's culture and how the kids of today would be then. Ouch.

This video from Ogilvy APAC, which was done several months before the PHD video, is much better in my opinion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xxithGkS3Fk

Funny how we always seem to pass around and share the shit examples but don't mention many of the good ones.

This all reminds me of Agency.com's "When we roll, we roll big" disaster that they created for their Subway pitch in 2006. See: http://www.i-boy.com/weblog/2006/08/fool-me-once.html

That shocker signaled the beginning of the end of Agency.com, in my opinion. In a few years, we'll know if this was the moment PHD jumped the shark.

@iboy

CelinaKs
CelinaKs

We're all trapped in an industry that we all love and hate at the same time. I'm at the beginning of this journey, but already miss those days when I enjoyed watching ads for being just an ad without any measurement...

kaitlinmaud
kaitlinmaud

Hi Edward,

While I'm surprised to see that an agency was behind the video (not some sort of consumer advocacy group a-la-Bogusky) I actually liked it. I think you are right, WE (as in you and I and the others who are on the 'cutting edge') don't need 12 year olds to tell us this- but the majority of those in marketing and advertising still do.

Kaitlin

edwardboches
edwardboches moderator

@jeannie_chan Great comment. Could not agree more. Not sure what got into these guys. Sure there is change underway, but it makes no sense to be afraid of it, or to write your own obituary. Embrace it. Experiment. Learn. Engage. Succeed. Not that hard if you're willing to question old methods and tactics and try new ones.

KeithBorshak
KeithBorshak

@jeannie_chan I'm on the agency side. Creative Director and I tend to agree. Likes it's always been, most ad agencies are mediocre at best at coming up with truly big ideas. I'm currently finding myself talking with clients trying to convince them to stop trying so hard to insert themselves in to the conversation that is already happening. In short: "Agency and Clents, stay out of the way, don't interrupt the conversation, rather offer something meaningful to it"

edwardboches
edwardboches moderator

@tomcunniff Great comment, Tom. I've come around to actually believing that old fashioned TV advertising will see a kind of a renaissance, in that it is now liberated to be more creative than ever (the web, search and engagement can do the heavy lifting). We may not watch video on TV, it's more accessible on iPads and smart phones, but given that it can now be nothing but inspiring, entertaining and provocative (it could in the old days, too, but few people realized the value in that) we might make more stuff that people seek out and want to watch.

edwardboches
edwardboches moderator

@iboy @iboy George, thanks for sharing that. I suspected as much but didn't want to declare it. Spin, after all, is our business. Sorry for your friend who has to live with it. It's not as if we haven't all made some kind of mistakes (most just aren't public.) Anyway, thanks for sending the other links. Appreciate it.

edwardboches
edwardboches moderator

@kaitlinmaud I like irony, parody and even occasional self-flagellation, but this didn't work for me and I think that it points out a shortcoming of our jaded industry.