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October 17, 2005

Lies Your Ad Agency is Telling You

Have you heard the latest cliche now being parroted by advertising agency types: "Of course, we're media agnostic."

This verbal sleight of hand is used by agencies to get clients and prospects thinking that they truly believe and participate in integrated marketing. The reality is usually far different.

But that's not the only howler that you can hear emanating from the advertising community these days. Herewith, as a community service, is a quick compendium of other lies that ad agencies frequently tell. See how many you have heard before.

"The consumer is in charge today."

What they are really thinking is, "No she isn't. We are! Just like we've always been."

"We're into incentive-based compensation."

Uh huh. What they are really trying to say is, "We only like incentives that pay us more, above our already high rates. Are we going to put 'real' skin in the game? Are you kidding?! I've got to kick up 15% profit to my holding company this quarter."

"For us, it's all about ROI."

Given some of the trite work coming out of agencies these days, ROI must really mean "Running Out of Ideas."

"We build partnerships with our clients."

That sounds great, but aren't partners supposed to listen to each other now and then.

"We don't care about the industry awards shows. What matters most to us is our clients' results."

Of course, the agency creative director is really thinking, "If I could just get a shot at a Cannes Lion, I might be able to get that directors job I really want."

"We're all about building your brand."

The next words out of the media director's mouth usually are, "And a $5 million Super Bowl spot is the best way to do it."

"PR is the most efficient form of marketing you can do."

The agency president is really thinking, "Let those PR types write the press releases. It represents a tiny percentage of the budget anyway."

"Only senior people will work on your business."

What that really means is the agency will bill a lot of senior people's time to your account, whether or not they actually did any work.

Posted by Patrick at 11:34 PM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2005

The Trend Trap

The intrepid trend spotters who brought us "metrosexuals" are now trying to sell the newest guy phenomenon, the "ubersexual" (looks like Germany has finally replaced France and "Cool Britannia" as the European style paragon). Who knew?!

We learned about this hot new "ubersexual" trend from an unintentionally hilarious piece in the October 10, 2005 NY Times (the story is unintentionally funny in the same way a Patrick Swayze "action" film can be a laugh-out-loud experience...think "Road House" or "Point Break").

But, falling prey to these latest cultural pronouncements from the self-appointed trend gurus is anything but funny. For marketers trying to make sense of an increasingly complicated business environment, following these frothy trend directions can be an exercise in futility and wasted resources. Don't even try, because it's a total waste of your time and money.

The trend spotters are just another example of the dangers of confusing spin with strategy. They should be studiously avoided!

Marketing is, by its very nature, concerned with the newest of the new. As such, trend spotting was a natural outgrowth of the more sober and data-driven economic forecasting profession. Who doesn't want to know what's on the cutting edge of cool, hip and trendy -- what's in and what's so yesterday. I certainly am interested in this stuff, which is why I read a lot of consumer and cultural magazines and surf numerous websites. But, I do this as much for the entertainment value as anything else. I certainly would not base a marketing strategy on this trend forecasting.

Why? Because trend spotting is as ephemeral as the fog rolling in. It can appear to be pea soup one moment, and turn into a bright sunny day the next instant. That is not a basis for results-oriented marketing. Take the "metrosexuals" phenomenon from a few years ago. The term was always suspect, with its cheeky sexual overtones (or is it undertones?). According to the trend spotters, "metrosexuals" were the new urban males who were just as comfortable buying multiple hair products and getting manicures as they were shopping for the latest electronic equipment and hand-crafted beer.

Of course, the backlash came quickly and mercilessly. No sooner had the "metrosexual" term been launched then pundits starting trashing it, and for good reason. Men -- be they straight, gay or otherwise -- don't appreciate being labeled (for that matter, no one likes being labeled by marketers). They especially did not welcome the ambiguous "metrosexual" moniker. So it died a quick death. The question is, though, how many marketers spent good money buying the "metrosexual" spin from the trend spotters? Even worse, how many built and launched campaigns based on this "marketing idea"? (I remember seeing several such campaigns, and they literally were disasters!)

For me, the nadir of the "metrosexual" movement came just recently. There it was, in the form of the October 2005 issue of Details Magazine, which the NY Times called the "metrosexual bible." I spied the front cover of the new Details recently, and there, next to a sultry looking Joaquin Phoenix, was the headline: "The Death of the Alpha Male -- And Why We're Glad He's Gone." All I could think of was how unhappy Joaquin must have been with that editorial juxtaposition. Whether he liked it or not, Mr. Phoenix was thus anointed the new "metrosexual" poster boy for 2005!

Now we have the new-new male paragon, the mighty "ubersexual." The NY Times article lists Bono as the "uber-ubersexual," closely followed by George Clooney and Bill Clinton. While the "ubersexual" term seems somewhat more palatable to men than "metrosexual" ever was, you can bet that it will still fade quickly, never to be seen nor considered again. But, not before the trend spotters extract a lot of mileage (and fee income) out of it.

When it comes to figuring out your marketing plans, stick to real strategy, based on real, empirical research. Forget the spin being spun by the trend spotters. The last thing you need is to create a new marketing effort based on this season's "metrosexual." The average flea has a life span that's longer than this kind of trend.

Posted by Patrick at 06:24 PM | Comments (0)