The Perils of Knowing Too Much

Just occasionally in amongst the cries for attention and the blatant sales pitches on my LinkedIn feed a gem appears. Admittedly most of these gems tend to be written by one of Dave Trott, Bob Hoffman or Richard Shotton but every so often someone else simply hits the spot.

One such piece appeared last week from Jelena Veselinovic, an integrated marketing professional of many years standing now based in Atlanta, Georgia. You can read Jelena’s piece here.

Now, having been taken to task by Tom Goodwin for a Cog Blog post of a couple of weeks ago on the basis that I wasn’t qualified to comment on either his posts nor his situation with Publicis as I had never met him (a principle that were it to be applied across social media would decimate, if improve the content), I should point out that Jelena was a client of mine for ages when she was at The Coca-Cola Company.

The essence of Jelena’s piece is that her experience helping build Coca-Cola’s business in various parts of the world apparently counts for not very much at all when it comes to evaluating her appropriateness for work in today’s buzzy online world.

It would be funny if she wasn’t exactly right. Experience today seems to count for little, and certainly a great deal less than knowing what the latest acronym stands for or being able to discuss the technical merits of this algorithm over that formula.

Note ‘discuss’ as opposed to ‘understand’.

The great Bob Hoffman, in his AdContrarian role is fond of pointing out how very bad we are at learning from our mistakes, or indeed from our triumphs.

A few years ago I was one of the first-stage judges of the IPA Ad Effectiveness awards.

The eventual winner that year (I believe it was 2014) was Fosters – their excellent ‘Beach-hut’ campaign delivered outstanding results for the business with every pound spent generating £32 in sales.

‘Beach-hut’ was duly dropped a few months later to be replaced by I don’t remember what, before making a reappearance last year.

I don’t recall too many articles on what that decision cost Fosters

Brands refresh their ad campaigns all the time but only the most successful learn, and apply that learning through a consistency of thought and approach.

It may seem obvious but if you consider some of the most iconic campaigns of all time they are put to sleep before their time. Ads wear-out with brand managers way before they wear-out with consumers. Show anyone of a certain age an ad featuring a boy pushing a delivery bike up a hill and they become all nostalgic. Oh, all right, here it is. 1973, since you asked.

As with creative so with media where the smartest operators are great at absorbing lessons and applying them in whatever circumstances they find themselves in.

Those lessons may involve the importance of reach; the concept of effective frequency; the notion that ads work differently within different contexts; the idea that brand building ads need to wear-in; and the importance of ensuring a consistency of messaging across all channels (and not confining that consistency simply to advertising).

These are universal principles. That’s not to say they should just be applied unthinkingly everywhere, every time but the wisdom within them can be distilled and reapplied.

Understanding these things comes with experience. It’s needlessly expensive to start again every time from scratch and yet time and time again I see articles and posts claiming to discover something that those of around even 10 years ago took for granted. Mind you, we probably thought we had invented them too…

It’s no excuse to say that the world has changed. We all know that’s true but there’s a skill in translating lessons learned in one era to another.

Jelena’s LinkedIn post is titled: 6 Good Reasons Why You Should Never Hire Me. My favourite is: ‘I don’t have performance marketing experience’. To which she responds: ‘Right. I don’t. I only have experience with marketing that performs.’

Experience counts. Ignoring it costs.



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