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I grew up in a world of marketing that is so far from where the industry is today, it’s almost impossible to imagine. Ad Land was a place where Super Bowl spots and FP4C in the New York Times were the Holy Grail. You used to have things like time to work on ideas; campaigns would take 4 weeks to conceive, at least that long for changes and approval, a month for production. Every assignment meant calling in books, hiring a photographers, illustrators, directors, production companies — creating an original piece of art to help communicate the message. Done well, it was art, and it sold a lot of stuff. And while some of that exists today, it’s not where things are going. Humans may take thousands years to change, but media consumption is changing weekly, and one needs to look no further than Blockbuster Video to see the penalty for standing still.
My last campaign as an ad man was for a well-known business publication. The goal wasn’t to increase subscriptions, but to reward those who were already subscribers, to build an “us vs. the world” divide, to reward their loyalty. From that brief came the idea: let’s create an entirely new country and fill it with only the passionate fans of the brand. We’d stick the country anywhere on the globe, preferably where the sun was hot and the exchange rate was fabulous. It was all virtual, of course, but the perks were real. In a post-Second Life, pre-Farmville kind of way, our goal, simply, was to make “moving” to this country fun. We wanted millions of folks to have a great time. We wanted them to tell their friends, to wear the t-shirt.
This was the first campaign I worked on without traditional media support. We never thought of TV. There was talk of supporting it eventually with some OOH or online banners, but mostly, it would start and grow from within. Just a few brand ambassadors who would tell their friends and who would help us determine what other brands we’d partner with. Long story short, what seems obvious now, even when I joined Taylor just two and a half years ago, was still very new. You could see where marketing was heading, and it was going there more quickly, more efficiently, more effectively. In 2008, the words “let’s create a Facebook tab” weren’t a mandatory part of every campaign yet. Twitter has gone from a few hundred thousand tweets per quarter to 65 million a day. Smartphones weren’t in the hands of 40% of the population, and seemingly 100% of the most desired consumers.
Traditional marketing isn’t dead; there will always be a need to reach 70 million people at once and that’s why Super Bowl spots will continue, and there will always be a need to pitch a story to a journalist and conduct a media tour. But in terms of marketing disciplines, who will happily put the consumer at the center of a campaign, not necessarily the product? Who can create a meaningful, long-lasting series of content, not just a :30 spot? Who has the curiosity to leverage GPS technology into a marketing platform? Who will design a game on behalf of a client? Who knows how to get consumers talking, without the benefit of a media buy? The shift is seismic, and it’s the changes in media consumption that makes marketing so relevant again. Sure, Super Bowl spots are nice. But a hundred million people have also seen the BlendTec guy grind up everything from an iPhone to a vuvuzela. And for a lot less money.