Saturday, October 10, 2009

What do we do?

I've been thinking for a couple of days about a post from my friend the Ad Contrarian, "Nothing to Sell But Uncertainty," a rumination on the role of advertising in the bs-laden world today.

Some people will tell you we are looking for new paradigms,others will blather on about convergence, the twitters will twerp in with some folderol about brand conversations. OK, OK, but what do we do?

Just now I came upon a book review in The Wall Street Journal I found interesting because it combines a few of my many obsessions: Jewish life, Nazis and marketing. It's of a book called "We Were Merchants," and it's the story of the Sternberg's and their department store "Goudchaux's." You can read the whole thing here:

It's a remarkable story, in all, but one sentence in the review really hit me between the eyes. I think it might be the simplest and best answer to the Ad Contrarian's plaintive questioning.

Mr. Sternberg, co-author of "We Were Merchants," and grandson of the progenitor of Goudchaux's writes: The "abiding philosophy was the customer was everything. Without him or her, there would be no need for a cash register."

It seems me to what Sternberg was saying makes sense to us in the ad industry. Because we are merchants, too. Our ads must serve the customer. They must give them valuable information. Tell them a compelling story. Impel them to act. And they must do so in a way that is unique and memorable--proprietary to the brand which you are selling.

What we do in advertising has become instead all about finding a really cool DP, or doing a cut just for the awards shows, or removing a url and body copy because it will clutter the ad.

What we really should be doing is remembering that the customer is everything.


Tore Claesson said...

Absolutely spot on. But don't let that same customer into a focus group. That they would know much about what ads they would respond to is the great mis-conception.

Dan Goldgeier said...

I agree with you George. But the conflict we have is that the client is our direct customer. Their customers are our indirect customers. We have to get through one to reach the other. And that's never easy.

george tannenbaum said...

Absolutely, Dan. But we must try to work with the client to do what's right for real customers.

Teenie said...

Call me old fashioned, but I don't believe the fundamentals of advertising will ever, ever change--no matter what new trend rears its head. The customer is, and will always be, king.

Unfortunately, clients and agencies seem to have made advertising all about themselves.

Tore Claesson said...

Clients and agencies have indeed made advertising all about themselves. Agencies in one way. Clients in another. Neither being particularly serious about what might really work. I'm old enough to remember the days when agencies fought for work they strongly believed would be effective. Awards being a reward for that sort of work. (Avis, Perdue, Hovis, VW, etc.) Now agencies don't fight for the work they believe in. They do what the client says. Even when it doesn't make sense. In other worlds, agencies are simply commodity providers. Manufacturers of ad-like objects. Not experts nay longer. And then they produce some work for the awards on the side. It's sad. And the saddest part is that it's become the norm even among the more ambitious ones. As an industry we seem to have given up on doing work that works, and win awards as a result of it.