The New York Times pulls together a panel on how to save advertising now that TV networks and other traditional “gatekeepers” no longer control the world. The NYT’s Jack Hitt moderates Robert Rasmussen (RG/A), Lars Bastholm (AKQA), and Benjamin Palmer (The Barbarian Group).
Full debate here. Some highlights below.
On the transformation to a “conversation”:
Bastholm: In [the old] days…there was usually more of a brand monologue. Your brand would just spout whatever values you were trying to instill in your consumers. If it worked, great. People would talk about it around the water cooler.
Hitt: And that doesn’t work anymore?
Bastholm: Right. That process became too transparent. Now our job is to have a conversation with your consumers about whatever story it is you want to tell about the brand.
Hitt: Which companies do you think are having that dialogue successfully?
Bastholm: EA Sports, the video-game company, is a good example. On YouTube, someone posted a clip of himself playing the company’s Tiger Woods golf game. He put it up as a joke, laughing at EA Sports, because he had discovered a glitch in the programming that allowed Tiger to walk right out onto a pond next to the golf course and shoot his ball from there. So the company saw the video, and in response, it uploaded this ad to YouTube that said: “It’s not a glitch. He’s just that good.” The ad showed the real Tiger, in live action, actually walk on water and shoot a ball. That’s a great example of responding to how consumers interact with your brand.
Palmer: It used to be that companies would commission a study at great expense to find out what people thought about their product. Now you just go online and find out. It’s really scary at first. You realise there’s a whole dialogue going on outside your brand, and you can’t control it.
Bastholm: The feedback you get, though, is so much richer and more immediate than what we used to get. In focus groups, there’s always one guy who sort of steals the room, so you wind up getting his opinion and no one else’s. On YouTube, you put your ad up, and right away you can read the comments. It’s such a democracy.
Rasmussen: Online marketing is kind of like a video game that way. You can keep track of precisely how many people see your content and exactly how much they relate to it. As soon as you put it out there, you can keep score.
On advertiser denial:
Hitt: Are there brands that are resisting this kind of change?
Palmer: Sure. Almost any household brand you would find under your sink or in your medicine cabinet. The macaroni-and-cheese products of our daily lives. They assume their business practices will carry on forever. A couple of years ago, I decided that I wanted to do some bleach advertising. I wanted to do something that everybody has in their house and nobody ever talks about. I remember meeting some people from Clorox and being like, “Man, we should do some cool stuff and get people talking about bleach.” And I doggedly stayed with it for a while, but it just didn’t fit into their consciousness.
Rasmussen: It’s not just Clorox. Even brands that are doing very well are resistant to this change. They want to take advantage of all these new media channels, but they’re afraid.
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