The Gospel According to Gary

Nobody in the UK ad business has ever heard of Gary Vaynerchuk. I know this as I’ve employed a research technique beloved by Gary himself: I asked a few people I know. Admittedly these people were gathered at the asi conference on audience measurement but, hey.

Gary for those who have never heard of him (and I’m sure many smart Cog Blog readers have, really) is a serial entrepreneur, who enjoys great success in fields as far apart as wine, media (not so far apart) and sneakers.

As well as being hugely successful, I’m sure he’s a charming guy (in fact I hear from some who know him that he genuinely is) but charming or otherwise when it comes to advice on media matters he is somewhat deluded.

Gary’s been in the news here this last week on the back of a series of appearances in which he says (I precis) that anyone who does not spend their entire marketing budget on Facebook and Instagram is nuts; that all other media forms are dead or dying; and that marketers will come to thank him for the wisdom as prices on FB (et al) are about to go through the roof.

He makes one exception – ads in the Superbowl are well worth it, and together with Facebook and Instagram …. Well, really that’s all you need to know.

Amidst the sound of teeth gnashing, and some of us just sighing quietly in desperation, Professor Mark Ritson decided to be sensible. He split Gary’s claims into five, and basically destroyed them one by one with evidence and facts.

If you haven’t read the good Professor’s masterpiece in ‘Marketing Week’ here it is.

I can’t improve on Ritson (let’s face it, few can) but there are a couple of interesting further facts on Gary’s claims.

First, he preaches to the choir. Gary typically speaks to online advertising evangelists. He avoids debate (Ritson has apparently suggested just such a thing, only for it to be firmly and politely rejected). In fact, not only does he preach to the choir he also uses the choir as his research sample. As Ritson says:

“Vaynerchuk is bereft of any data and relies initially on his own media consumption for empirical proof. But in recent years his stage show has usually included a section in which he uses his audience and a show of hands to demonstrate the fallacy of TV advertising.”

If you criticise Gary, the high priest of social media on social media, well, you can guess what happens next.

It all sounds a bit like someone else, in a different line of work.

To be clear, no-one is suggesting that FB and Instagram don’t have their place; or that for certain advertisers they do a great job. Indeed, my Twitter feed this week contained one such small business owner pointing out what a great job FB does for him.

But not all advertisers are the same; media planning is a skill; selection of channels isn’t simple; one size does not fit all.

The second fact is that Gary, along with many, many online advertising ‘experts’ (there seem to be loads of people answering to that description) is quick to criticise the ad industry’s data. ‘Small samples’, ‘biased findings’, ‘controlled by the big broadcasters’, ‘methodologies not fit for purpose’. And so on.

Gary Vaynerchuk was an early stage investor in Facebook. You don’t think that his unbiased, small-sample-based, independent advice to marketers might be driven by any sense of self-interest do you?

No, of course not.

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