Guilty Pleasures

I admit I do spend an inordinate amount of time scouting marketing experts’ posts on LinkedIn and the rest for new ideas, and these peoples’ opinions on old ideas. If I’m being paid for my opinion on something I like to think it’s important to stay as current as I can be (how else am I going to find things to rant about on here?). But as well as that I have to admit to enjoying seeing old thoughts resurrected, polished up and presented as the latest shiny thing.

These days posting thoughts online is a little like the question of whether a tree falling in a forest makes a sound.

If you know something, it’s not enough just to know it, you have to broadcast the fact that you know it on social media. Unless and until you do that, you may as well not have gone to the trouble of knowing it in the first place.

Then you gather hundreds or thousands of comments from those praising you for thinking of something that if truth be told has been known for an age. At least you’re spreading the word, sharing the knowledge around (wherever it comes from).

In this way you build your reputation. It’s how you sustain yourself, how you know you have a professional life.

This may sound un-necessarily bitchy but there is a serious point to be made.

If you look around the industry you see people doing things that experience tells you won’t end well. These may be huge and consequential or small and only annoy obsessives like me.

Take personalised advertising (as the old joke goes, please do).

The sales story is easy: consumers like to see ads that are relevant. The data we have on who’s consuming media forms can now be taken to the n’th degree of granularity. So let’s offer up smaller and smaller audiences and thus personalise the messages they see.

There is such an obvious flaw in this that it’s embarrassing to point it out.

Consumers like to see ads that are relevant. This means the content has to be relevant. The timing has to be relevant. Whether one other person sees it, or 10 million others see it is irrelevant to my liking of the ad.

The size of audience may do lots of other things – like making it easy to amplify the message, but at the point that I’m reached I really don’t care.

No consumer ever saw an ad and said: ‘I hate that media plan.’

The whole point of personalisation is around the creative. Not the media plan.

This is as old as the hills. We’ve had personalised comms channels ever since someone invented speaking.

If I’m told something by someone I trust, and if the message is appropriate to me, I’ll likely react to it. ‘Trust’. ‘Appropriate’. Two key planks in any successful ad campaign.

And yet the likes of LinkedIn is full of people who it seems have only just worked this out. ‘Personalisation is all about personalising the message…’ ‘You need to look beyond the media reach amongst an ever-more segmented audience to the nature of the message’. Duh.

Take online tracking – following consumers around the web. Take retargeting. Take excessive frequency levels. Take dodgy audience figures that need to be revised when no-one is (hopefully) looking.

These things are so clearly bad ideas and are seen to be so by anyone with an iota of experience in advertising.

The only people who think these are good ideas are the geeks, those for whom a very big gross number is always more important than the message conveyed. And who have worked out that a bit of adjusting of audience numbers will be forgotten long before the image that this thing has been seen by half the people on the planet.

Those who lead and those who advise the tech companies and the giant platforms should listen not only to the accountants and the management consultancies but also to those who’ve built successful careers understanding, and communicating effectively with consumers.

Learn from the mistakes of others – they’re all around us.

PS Thanks so much for all the generous good wishes, ideas and thoughts following last week’s post on Crater Lake. You’ll notice us cranking up our SM presence but in the meantime check out the blog post on the site (and our lovely photos). We’re open for business.


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