Response Part The Second

(In response to this post

Dave, you were right – he’s both intelligent and acerbic. But he’s also a little pompous no?

So this is me. I probably have just as much of a non-screen life as he does. I fly gliders, ride horses, have friends all over the world, throw parties, eat at nice restaurants, drive sports cars, same stuff as he. I have a reasonable online life as well, though very little outside of work hours. I keep in touch with the 200 or so people of every social, religious and political hue that I cherish in my personal life, and the 200 or so I value in my professional life, using my social media. But I’m no geek, I went to a school with no computers – unlike the current generation in the West and the new generation in the East that relies on bandwidth like air.
I was lucky to have been involved in starting one of the world’s first web agencies, one of the first SEO agencies, the first iTV agency, and one of the leading eCRM agencies. I’m still learning all the time because our world is constantly changing, and still very often wrong (there, an easy one for you to quote me on later).
But the world has indeed changed. You’ve commented yourself on Tehran’s new Twittering classes. That’s a fine example of real-time, unfiltered interactive news, something that could not have happened before the net. In fact, where there remains no bandwidth TV still rules; but those are the same places where they launch missiles to mock independence day or misguided foreigners swim to meet housebound leaders. Iran’s real-time-shared protestations are not iconic like Tianenmen Square, but then what’s an icon but a fixation on the object and not the consumer of it. The new world has changed. This world is one where what a brand is is defined by what it lets its consumers say about it – not what it tells its consumers to think about it. And if you can’t tell the difference between the two, then that’s symptomatic of why the advertising industry has had its day in the sun.
You come from a world where the marketer defined the brand, and substantiated it with product. The world we now live in is one in which consumers commune, and brands that listen are defined by their listening, and their products get defined by what its consumers say – or show – they want un-prompted. This is how Unilever and Dell and P&G now work. On their rapid way out, thank goodness, are the days of the guided focus group, where ad folk with middling geography degrees divine market desires from “representative” samples of ten.
Advertising was first undermined by Direct Marketing, when the three letter lie in econometrics was exposed, and finally replaced with statistical certainty and relevance, something that TV panders but does not provide. Interactive TV was born of advertising people desperate to cling onto a world they could no longer control – of course it hasn’t worked, except in hotels – where it’s interactive but ad-free – and in the UK, where it forms the backbone to Domino Pizza’s revenue stream and where finally the BBC has learned to serve multiple options to millions of viewers in news, Glastonbury (where your Boss played last weekend) and travel sales. Perhaps after all there too you’re wrong.
Customers in their collective can make the decisions now, because brands that understand the way the world has changed listen to them, build their new products around them, and acquire brand equity by association. The brand onion is now more of a soup, a broth at best. 150 years ago you too changed the world. But today we know exactly which fifty percent does what, why, how and when.
TV may indeed be watched by more people, but there are also more cars, more polluters, more superpowers – and yet they are the last call of a newly redundant paradigm. TV is trusted by just 38% of viewers, compared with 77% who trust emails from friends. Read Don Tapscutt, who told you fifteen years ago at the same time as all those people – including me – started experimenting with how to make it so, that the world was irrevocably changing. You enjoy a platform that’s not confined to a printed, out of date before it’s proofed, ad rag. Your assertions and (witty, deeply acerbic) web logs reach, stimulate, annoy and amuse people you’ll never meet (though as I said before, love to do this over a pint one day). Tens if not hundreds of millions of people now have a voice that can genuinely be heard. You too have been changed by the internet.
Enjoy your advertising. Enjoy the banners and viral films your world insisted on but which our new world thinks at best ephemerally amusing, at worst intrusive. Party hard while it lasts, because marketing changed while you were being funny. Enjoy the holiday weekend, perhaps upload something to Flickr.