Articles

Advertising as We Know It is Dead
by Shannon Carter, President, Carter Strategy

If traditional advertising isn't dead, it's certainly on its deathbed. The Open Source economy is quickly replacing and will continue to replace traditional advertising methods. Open Source is a term that first described a software revolution, i.e. Linux. The term has now evolved into any open forum in which the general public can contribute to the greater public knowledge base. Marketing people may have heard the idea referred to as "Listenomics" or the "Reverse Flow Economy." Commonly known Open Source devices such as epinons.com, blogs, Wikis and Pod casting are quickly changing the marketing/advertising profession. Open Source opinions are affecting everything from buying decisions to political public opinions. Agencies that do not adjust to these changes will whither and die along side their 30-second television commercial.

Once upon a time, the 60-second radio spot and 30-second television commercial ruled the advertising kingdom. That day is over. The proliferation of DVRs (Digital Video Recorders), satellite radio and Video-on-Demand are testaments to consumers' willingness to pay a fee to avoid traditional advertising. Comcast alone has served more than one billion videos on demand in the first three quarters of 2005. According to most consumers age 25-44, the main reason for owning a DVR is time shifting - recording a program for viewing at a more convenient time. The second reason is advertising avoidance. What about syndication you ask? Thanks to Apple's video iPod, viewers can download an entire season of their favorite show to watch at their leisure...commercial-free. Jamie Kellner, Chairman/CEO, Turner Broadcasting System, said it best, "The television business cannot exist unless consumers are willing to give time for marketers."

According to Verisign, the time consumers spend online is now about equal to time spent watching television for most age demographics - in some desirable segments, it's even greater. Because people are spending more time online, analysts expect advertising dollars to follow user behavior. Currently, only 4% of advertising budgets are spent online versus approximately 25% spent on television advertising. However, nearly 85% of advertisers plan to increase online advertising budgets in 2006 and 50% of those plans to decrease the amount they spend on traditional advertising channels.

Print advertising is not immune to consumer apathy either. Magazine and newspaper readership has been consistently declining for decades. Even Playboy, one of the most successful magazines in history, decreased its guaranteed paid circulation by 4.7% this year. Along with declining readership, publications have to deal with reader skepticism regarding the separation of editorial and advertising. A recent survey of magazine readers by Starcom USA found that 65% of readers believe that marketers pay for placement in editorial features.

Mobile advertising, blogging, Pod casting, word-of-mouth marketing and other guerrilla tactics are also eroding the beachhead of traditional advertising. Innovative advertising vehicles like these are some of the fastest-growing (and most controversial) advertising line items for business-to-consumer and business-to-business advertisers alike. Parallel to these, marketing dialog channels like epinions.com are putting much more control into the hands of the end user. Ignore these, and you will find yourself a laggard in the marketplace as well as in the minds of an increasingly savvy customer base.

Am I suggesting that all traditional marketing be scrapped? No, that would be foolish. There is a place for an evolved type of advertising. Our friends at GSD&M have it right - advertising is an uninvited guest in consumers' homes. That guest must be intriguing, captivating and/or enlightening to be invited back. As marketing experts, we must have a deeper understanding of consumer behavior. We must create advertising that gets invited back and be able to navigate the new consumer landscape.

Sounds easy, right? It's not! Creating great advertising has always been difficult and it always will be. That's one of the reasons we have a love/hate relationship with this business. The first step is acknowledging the landscape has changed and will continue to do so. The next step is getting to know the new Open Source economy.

To follow are some tips to help guide you through marketing in the Open Source economy.

TIPS
  1. Don't fight public opinion - you'll lose. If your company, product or service is falling under attack by an Open Source forum, you have a few choices. First, ignore it...maybe it will go away...yeah, kinda like syphilis. Second, fight it... then you look like you're trying to hide the flaw (see www.vwsucksass.com). Third, accept the criticism and use the forum to evolve your product and solidify your relationship with your audience. After all, these people know your product and have taken the time to write about it. Acknowledge them and invite them to improve your offering (see www.whynot.net).
  2. Don't be a technophobe. Get to know the new Open Source technology that affects your industry. This may sound like a daunting task, but if you approach it diligently, it will pay huge dividends. Set a goal of getting to know one media per week. You don't have to be an industry expert at each one. Simply arm yourself with a working knowledge and you'll start coming up with amazing new marketing ideas.
  3. Get it right - the first time. You've got one chance to launch (relaunch) a new product or service. Be armed with a quality service/product, a strong brand plan, excellent marketing and the ability to sway opinion leaders. Advertising can no longer hide inferior products or distract consumers from the truth.
  4. Be willing to experiment with new media and measure response rates. With a plethora of new media available, no "packaged" media mix is going to work every time. Make sure you develop a response vehicle that can be measured. If you can't afford focus groups or other analytical tools, do a simple in-house phone or web survey to get a gut feeling for your response rate. You must be able to measure your ROI (return on investment) to improve your media mix.
  5. Start with a strong brand and constantly make it stronger. At Carter Strategy, we refer to branding as the process of articulating the core business strategy in every communication touch-point. Remember it's an evolving process, not a one-time project. So start with a piece of your brand and go from there. Make sure all your materials reflect your core strategy - advertising, marketing collateral, website, sales presentations, storefront, signage, packaging, invoices, email...by no stretch of the imagination is this meant as an exhaustive list. The important thing is to start the process and get your branding ducks in a row.

If you have questions about marketing in the Open Source economy, call Carter Strategy at 800-479-2616 or visit our site at carterstrategy.com. Carter Strategy is a branding-driven, advertising and design agency.