Gord’s Weekly Rants: Agency Cluelessness, Measuring Engagement & Selective Perception

I’ve been a little grumpy this week. And you can tell from the two columns I wrote.

First, in MediaPost, I took on big agencies and the continued cluelessness I see around search:

Will Agencies Get Search: Don’t Hold Your Breath

It seems like anytime I have a conversation with anyone who knows search and its effectiveness, we always come back to the same question: “Why don’t more ad agencies and brand advertisers get search?”

Then I decided to take a swipe at the ARF’s ill fated attempt to create a one size all metric around engagement. In this column for Search Engine Land, I dove fairly deep into how we psychologically perceive and cognitize ads. If selective perception, schemas and priming are your bag, check it out.

Taking On ARF, Engagement, Interruptive Advertising… And Whatever Else You’ve Got!

In 2005, The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), through their MI4 Initiative, decided to embark on the Quixotic quest of defining engagement. The impetus was finding a more appropriate and applicable metric that could stretch across the rapidly expanding number of channels that were exploding through digital delivery. So, the good folks at ARF assembled a bunch of agency people, various publishers and yes, even a few search marketers, to try to thrash out a definition for a standard metric that could apply equally to video, print, digital display, audio and text. I watched the proceedings from the sideline with skepticism.

It’s sounds trite to say there’s a revolution happening in marketing. Everybody, including CMO’s for the big brands and big agency flacks are saying the same thing. Almost everyone is talking the talk. But almost no one is walking the walk. I guess it’s a lot easier to say than to do. And I think that’s the sticking point. More and more, marketing is about delivering on every customer experience opportunity. And that’s not a marketing function. That’s the very DNA of a company. Agencies can’t do that for you. It requires a CEO that tends to get obsessive and dictatorial about the core purpose of the company (Disney and family entertainment, Jobs and design, Neeleman and a better flying experience, Brin, Page and User defined relevancy).

Through my research, I’m finding that an intellectual level, everybody gets that something fundamental is happening here. There are thousand of signatories of the Cluetrain Manifesto, published in 2000, 7 years ago. Every one of them says, “Right on, absolutely, you guys rock!” (I paraphrase). How come, then, I still see some many crappy customer experiences, advertising seems less authentic, more intrusive and louder than ever, and clueless corporations with questionable ethics and continuing control fantasies. Because, it’s one thing to be a silent revolutionary who’s read the subversive manifesto and smirkingly nods their head in agreement. But how do you do something about it? Unless you have X-O level support, you’re doomed to failure.

Example, one of the signatories: “I’m on the train! Now, can you send this to my CEO?” Holly Harrington, Web Developer, Intel

What’s needed is a true revolution where some corporate monarchs are toppled and the rebels take control. We need more corporate juntas. But those just don’t happen, do they? Because when your Corporation X, with umpteen billions in annual revenue, who’s going to have the guts to say, “Hey, we’re doing it all wrong and we have to change everything” and to do that in full knowledge that it will decimate earnings for at least 5 years. No, we’re not going to see the change for the big corporations. American Airlines or United is never going to say, “God, flying on our planes suck”. It’s going to come from the JetBlues, the Googles and the next generation who get the fact that it’s all about giving people something to talk about.

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