April 13, 2010
 

Paul McEnany: ad:tech For The People

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Marketing and Technology. For the People.

By Paul McEnany

In case you didn't notice, Advertising as we knew it is gone.

Okay, maybe it's not completely gone, but it's fledgling, struggling, whatever you want to call it.

I think Dana Todd's view says it best:

"The prevailing wisdoms of our past in terms of advertising, media, publishing, science, and computing are being tested constantly, and occasionally pushed aside to make way for entirely new things. Old isn't always bad, but new isn't always good either. There's an element of destruction in much of the technology in terms of disintermediation of business models (which is potentially threatening to thousands of jobs and millions of dollars) and destruction of our social fabric as we know it (teens who only communicate in text, the breakdown of family time around the TV, and the pervasive role of new media in our lives).

Fortunately, the public doesn't seem as scarred as we might have feared. We embrace the efficiencies that technology brings us, but we still continue to value our human relationships as highest priority. We just use different means of interacting and communicating now."

--Dana Todd, Co-founder and Principal, SiteLab International

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For most, it won't take much more than a mirror to recognize how easily and thoughtlessly we, the masses, make advertising obsolete. And, just as Todd said, we use different means of interacting and communicating now. Only problem is, that doesn't leave much room for interruption, a skill that's been our bread and butter for decades.

So maybe it's time we just stop calling what we do advertising. What it is now is much too personal to be so shorted with that brand of commercial artistry. When before we were segmented and massified at the same time, today we are increasingly individualized, personalized, and magnified. 10 years ago I wasn't much more than a 25-34 year-old male with a paycheck, but today, I stand before you proudly as me and only me.

As Richard Frankel of Yahoo! said, "If consumers feel like their web experience is tailored to their actual interests, they are going to feel better about their experience overall. Old media technology tells consumers to be like the mass. Interactive media technology tells consumers to be themselves -- and consumers like that."

It's a brand new day for advertising, but more so, it's a brand new day for people.

I'm obviously more connected than I've ever been. I generally have two laptops buzzing around me. I write two different blogs, and for the Madison Avenue Journal. If you don't find me there, you can see me mini-blogging with twitter. I check my email constantly on my Treo. I've got profiles on MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn, among others. It doesn't take a master sleuth to find my cell phone number, and my email address is all over the web.

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I'm more open than most, that's for sure. But, as you already know, it doesn't take much more than a Google search to get a pretty good level of knowledge about almost anybody. Web 2.0 is usually described as the growth of social media, but it can just as easily be called open media, because what it did is start to remove the anonymity of the internet. While there is still room for leading separate digital and actual lives, for many, the two are seamless. The identity is largely the same. And that's a good thing.

But with all this openness, advertisers are becoming mostly shut out, left unwelcome on the doorstep.

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Diagram above by David Armano.

"For me personally technology is all about freedom," says Director of Buzz marketing at Microsoft Sean Carver.

My openness makes it easy to find exactly what I want, when I want, without the need for the one-way messaging that is the status quo for our business.

[Check out: Social Networks and Consumer Generated Media: Re-examining the Value Proposition, Thursday, April 26, 2:45pm-3:45pm]

Sure, I watch plenty of TV, but I haven't seen a television commercial in weeks. That is, besides on YouTube, but that's reserved only for the incredibly good and the hopelessly bad. I spend copious amounts of time on the web, but with robust ad blocking software, I hardly ever see a banner ad, pop-up or the like. I still listen to the radio, but the play button on the IPod is pressed at the mere hint of a break. I don't read magazines. I don't read newspapers.

[Check out: The On-Demand Universe, Wednesday, April 25, 10:45am-11:45am]

So, for all my openness, my consumption resembles this chart. I talk to people, who talk to other people, with brands and recommendations flying all around. But, there is no tolerance for the unwanted, the unrequested. I have no patience for interruption, and neither should you.

As Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy Public Relations said, "Consumers are generating everything from their own entertainment to their own advertising (and often they are one in the same). All these messages are highly personal, driven by the passion of individuals. More than ever, the personal side of Ad-Tech is about marketing for the people, by the people - and what role professional marketers have to play in this."

Well, maybe it's marketing for the people by the people, but I don't think you can call it advertising.

[Check out: The Next Big Thing: Is Advertising Really the Solution? Wednesday, April 25, 12:00pm-1:00pm]

So, the picture should be even clearer. Advertising is dead, but marketing isn't. We've started to adapt to this new environment by doing the only thing we could do, stop advertising, and just embrace the humanity of it all.

Now, we've become conversationalists, trying desperately to elicit some response where before we simply ignored it. And that's a good thing. The implication is that we no longer own it or control it. Now we earn it.

[Check out: The Art of Conversation: Establishing Brand Dialog in the Digital Era, Tuesday, April 24, 4:00pm-5:00pm]

And it's so important, because it's all about people now. Sure, it's always been about people on some level, but before we spoke about consumers with a more war-like attitude of targeting and capturing them. It is this 'us vs. them' mentality that stole our popular credibility in the first place. Luckily, we're all in this together.

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While "targeting" the right consumers is more important than ever, our focus is expanding to trust, to improving the lives of our customers. It's evidenced when you hear ad:tech attendees like Carver say, "The first question that should be hardwired in our product skulls is how will this help someone do something better, or faster or with more enjoyment...my mom, myself, my friends, etc. If we didn't believe in our technology and the effort then there would be no enjoyment in bringing an app to market. In the end today's market and media should be about many levels of choice and the opportunity to participate at whatever level a person finds most rewarding."

[Check out: The Path to One-to-One Marketing: The Evolution of Behavioral Targeting, Tuesday, April 24, 10:45am-11:45am]

And, the same pierces through the fabric of Yahoo!, when senior product director Richard Frankel says, "Yahoo!'s mission is 'to connect people to their passions, their communities, and the world's knowledge.' If we succeed at this mission then everything we do improves the lives of consumers. We know we are getting it right when consumers come to Yahoo! and stay here in droves."

The same can be said of advertising agencies. We're still in the business of selling products and services. That never changed, but we just finally realized that making money isn't mutually exclusive with retaining a descent level of righteousness and connection.

As Harold Mann of Mann Consulting said, "But those that definitely work to improve people's lives tend to make money more easily. When the money is the byproduct of the work and not the reason for it, it is easier to sustain one's career."

My point is that while fear swirls throughout the traditional towers of advertising, we should be rejoicing together in the knowledge that when we go to work tomorrow, we can stop talking about interrupting, annoying, and pestering a passive target into a purchase, but focus on working with our customers towards a more mutually satisfying goal. And, when the consumers get what they want, when they want, and we make a little money facilitating the process, we can all sleep better at night.

[ad:tech check out: The State of the Agency, Thursday, April 26, 4:00pm-5:00pm]

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Breathe easy. Technology has made marketing all about the people. This time for real.

Paul, On ad:tech's behalf and ours, thank you! The Editors

Paul McEnany is a new media and marketing strategist at Levenson and Hill in Dallas, TX and works with clients in business categories ranging from logistics to QSR. He is a contributor to Beyond Madison Avenue, one of the most popular marketing blogs as well as his own personal marketing blog, Hee Haw Marketing. A budding activist, he can be reached at paul.mcenany@gmail.com.

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