Just like driving skills, which will become obsolete in the era of driverless cars, and professional drivers, who will become some sort of exotic occupation, so will advertising agencies increasingly turn into a “relict of the past”. In order to avoid this fate, the agencies can no longer only adapt, they must change radically.
A man walks into a butcher’s shop and asks: “You wouldn’t happen to have rabbit meat?” “Of course! Here you are,” smiles the butcher. The man looks at the meat that he’s being shown, while the butcher continues: “And let me tell you – it’s not pure rabbit meat, it’s actually mixed meat!” The man looks at the butcher and asks: “What do you mean, it’s mixed?” “There’s some horse meat in it, too!” clarifies the butcher. “Horse meat?!?!” exclaims the man and then asks: “So how much horse meat is there in the rabbit meat, then?” “We mixed it one-to-one!” responds the butcher.
“What do you mean, one-to-one?” the man is growing more and more bewildered. “Just like I said – one-to-one: one rabbit – one horse!” calmly replies the butcher. “Wait a minute!!! Then you can’t even taste the rabbit meat in it!” the man is confused. “You’re absolutely right!” the butcher quickly responds. “That’s why we don’t actually put any rabbit meat in it!”
It seems to me that advertising agencies are more and more like such butchers. They know what clients want, and they sell them something completely different, convincing them that the particular thing is exactly what they are looking for. Thus, clients want to increase the sales of their products and services, and agencies offer and sell the statistical number of people who will see their ad. And then they claim that as more people see that ad – more people will buy their product. Well, maybe not exactly in ratio one to one, as in the previous story, but the principle is the same. I do not think the agencies are malicious or want to deceive their clients. On the contrary, great people work in them – from creative people, planners, managers, analysts and others who really want to help their clients, but they can sell them only what they already have, and they have less and less of what customers really need today. Just have a look at a commercial block on any television or a newspaper ad. In practice, everything somehow ended up as an invitation to customers to buy something cheap, at a good price and as soon as possible so they don’t miss it. Although, to tell the truth, it turns out that if that unique offer is missed, they will have the opportunity not to miss the next, more favorable bid the following day, or week. And so the spiral is inexorably spinning downwards. Sometimes, it seems that advertisements contain more numbers and characters “%” than words that describe the product.
And we already know that. The interesting point is that the explanation of why this is happening is still incorrect. Both clients and agencies still see the main problem in the fact that today, unlike “old good times” we have an unlimited number of media platforms – hundreds of television channels, online platforms and mobile applications – which now need to be covered by placing this necessary advertising message. And along with with the wrong diagnosis, the wrong therapy is prescribed, which is more or less based on how to put the same message, with minimal adjustments, through all these additional media channels. Because, the goal is the same – to allow as many people as possible to see the message. That’s how we entered a battle that can’t be won, while the price and costs are growing. For both sides.
In order to get the correct answer, the right question should be asked. The relevance of the brand and, consequently, the increase in sales does not depend anymore on how many people can SEE your message, but on how many people can you ask to do something when they contact them, and what they need to do is not first and foremost, to buy at an affordable price, because it comes in the end, not at the beginning of the story. Brands that are recognized and successful at today’s market are those who dominate a particular topic in a relevant way, which helped them gain the trust of those who are interested in this topic and because of this, they buy their product or buy through them. And they did not get that confidence by believing the word thanks to the fancy commercial message, but they developed it and gained it through personal experience.
These companies have not used technology to get their message to as many people as possible, but this new technology allows them to stay in constant contact and interaction with their users. Airbnb does not advertise its services on television but asks its users to write the experiences they had in the accommodation that they used and to share this experience with others because it is a criterion based on which other user makes a decision on which accommodation to reserve. And it is not a novelty – a recommendation, or how do we now like to call it “testimonial”. This has always been used for promotional purposes (ask people who work at TV sales?), but the new thing is that nowadays this recommendation is immediately available to everyone interested and what is more at any time. What is then the benefit of the owner of this accommodation? To have a good ad or to get a good rating from the users? That’s why the owners welcome their guest with a welcome drink and give them a small present when they leave on departure. He knows very well that a satisfied guest is his media channel by means of which he addresses potential new customers, not an ad and a voucher with a 20% discount! And what is Airbnb’sinterest? To have those who rent the accommodation and those who rent it satisfied. That’s why they have criteria that must be met by anyone who wants to offer accommodation, but they also help them meet these criteria. In some markets, for example, they already offer free services of professional photographers to make the better presentation of the accommodation they want to offer. This helps the users of such accommodations to get the best information about the product they will buy, and they are asked to write the feedback and publish their experience to help the renter improve his service, and at the same time to provide a new user with the right information. This reference given by the user is the currency that expresses the value of the “marketing budget” of Airbnb.
Airbnb is just one example. We can mention here Uber, Booking, Trip Advisor, Kickstarter and other, not to forget that new companies of this type appear every day in different places. These companies are not just competitors existing in the traditional industries in which they have appeared, but they are changing these industries from the foundations. At first glance, it does not look that way. At a first glance it seems that Airbnb is just a new hotel chain, Uber a new taxi, Booking a new travel agency, TripAdvisor a new travel guide, and Kickstarter just a new shopping channel. But, as the old hit says “Everything is the same, but nothing is the same”!
And why it is not the same and why such companies will transform entire industries and sectors? The reason lies in the fact that the products that these companies offer have an already integrated communication platform where each individual user can easily create a message based on their own experience and publish it to everyone who is connected to the platform through the application. New technology has not been used here to make a new product but to present the existing product in a different way. Thanks to the fact that today every person is a medium, and the constant connection we seek turned our mobile device in mass media, the individual user experience has become the most relevant “advertisement”. And the whole business model designed about a product revolves around its users who spread it further and so “advertise” it in this way. Therefore, these products in the functional sense can be the same as existing ones, but the difference is the integrated communication platform that is their integral part. As a result, these are products automatically “advertise” themselves. They do not need agencies to tell them how to “communicate the benefits” of their products and what to do in order for customers to “spot” their brand, etc… This thing is now solved before the product comes to market at all. Therefore, the companies mentioned above are not just some examples “from America that may come here in just ten years,” but the hint of the future that has already arrived.
Just like driving skills, which will become obsolete in the era of driverless cars, and professional drivers, who will become some sort of exotic occupation, so will advertising agencies increasingly turn into a “relict of the past”. In order to avoid this fate, the agencies can no longer only adapt, they must change radically. Instead of focusing on how to hunt new clients, they should choose one or two topics for which they want to become experts and to start creating relevant content on the chosen topics. They will thus begin to create a platform for gathering and interacting with people who are interested in these topics and thus create a community that can be a market for products that are related to the topic. Some agencies still can do this – they have excellent talented people and people who have knowledge and skills, all they have to do is to decide they want it. But be careful!!! Brands and the media contemplate this as well, since they, along with the agencies, are in the same stew. You know, rabbit stew, the kind made from the finest horse meat.
Source: Media Marketing