1. Use purchasing muscle to buy up large blocks of airtime on every media platform. 2. Deliver repetitive ad agency messages that are very clever to “capture the imagination” of your audience. 3. Close your eyes and pray your way back to 1987, when consumers had no choice but to accept they would be forced to watch whatever you pay to put in front of them.
The hard truth is that the plan described above, still a go-to corporate marketing strategy, is nothing more spamming on a corporate level. Yet both the essential nature of media, and the core identity of the audience have radically changed in 2017.
The strategy seems to strive to condition the public en masse to obey your desire for them to pick your company. Thirty short years ago, this might work because the one box that had the everyone’s attention was entirely pay-to-play, so spamming was an established advertising practice that essentially worked by force. Modern media was new. Media companies wrote the rules. No one knew any different.
Now every single person runs their own media company.
To this day, with the sudden push into video advertising, the same principles of clever, repeated messaging on a screen you can’t turn off are being re-embraced by companies and advertisers. It’s comforting to think that by applying the tactics of 1987 TV to 2017 YouTube your marketing plan will work the same way, but the fact is audiences have never been more adept at, capable of, or interested in completely tuning out every piece of ad clutter.
Tom Fischburne in his 2015 essay “Advertising Clutter” puts it this way,
“Consumers have never had more power to tune out whatever marketers try to pitch them. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the handwringing on the rise of ad blockers. Yet, consumer resistance to advertising clutter is nothing new. It’s just that that traditional media channels (TV, radio, print, and outdoor) were largely unblockable.”
In 2017 the liability of clutter and “empty messaging” is heightened because your audience has the opportunity not just to respond, but to broadcast their response to their own audience. The audience that was previously on the forced-to-accept end of a one-sided traditional media equation, now has the ability – and frequently the anger to go with it – to rip on meaning-free social media spam on their personal media channel, for all their network to laugh at.
Look at Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign: It outspent Donald Trump 2:1 with 1.3 Billion in spending, mostly on TV ads without much content beyond ‘not Trump.’ Trump, by contrast, offered voters lots of content (lots of proposals and strong positions on relevant current issues) and a strong brand that got massive amounts of free media air-space and attention while spending a minimum on media purchases.
We are not advocating your business take similar positions to Donald Trump, but we do advocate your business find out what it stands for and broadcast that message. Strong content is the essence of social media advertising: Make the message compelling and well-designed so that it may take on a life of its own in an interactive media environment.
With a strong message, the media environment will do the heavy lifting of getting your message ‘out there’ for you. Spend your money on content that people want to spend time with.
Bullying people into consuming your message by purchasing their time and attention on media is an artifact of the modern advertising age that has a lot less value in the post-modern reality. It used to work because your audience had no other paradigm.
Forcing your message into every media space only reminds people of how glad they are to be more and more free of your ability to force your message on them.
To rely on the power of purchased media space over valued content is slow media suicide, because you prove over and over again that your business was dependent on your control of media in the first place for your message to succeed. In the public eye, your company’s message must be weak, because it is still dependent on old media tricks to work. By failing to adapt to the demands of the contemporary audience, your implied message is that you do not care what your audience cares about – that your company upholds insular, selfish social values. The kind of values, some might think, that got our society into this social crisis in the first place.
Whatever your politics may be, the Trump vs. Clinton 2016 election proved beyond a doubt that the 20th Century model of ‘buying your way’ into public prominence and regard through the purchase of marketing ‘stuff’ does not work on the contemporary US media audience. Audiences have moved fast beyond the clever ad agency hi-jinx of bygone eras. Clever doesn’t matter because it doesn’t do anything. The public is hungry for ideas, meaning, and answers to the real problems facing their lives and their failing society.
If your company is stuck making cute thematic plays on your brand, for example if the classic Absolut campaign were reinvented today, you are implicitly sending the message that you do not care about what the public cares about. Not only that, but that you have the time and resources to futz around making expensive ads about esoteric ideas far from the pressing and real concerns of the average American. And that, like Hillary’s “August in the Hamptons” – insulated from the public and focused on funding for forced media encounters – becomes your real message to the public, whether you like it or not.