The advertising industry makes claims we are in an era of lean-machined responsiveness. Yet, all I see is the short term, rigid and rationalised.
Whether it’s clients pushing for quick wins, the agencies opting for comfort, or else faulting the economy, more often than not, campaigns remain short term. We are “real time” obsessed. And with this shortsightedness, we are becoming stuck in the same quick-win gear. We are rigid in our strategy. Brand campaigning becomes out of practice for us, and an increasing chore to sell in to MDs and CEOs battling the pressures of targets and profits: an empirical addiction.
The recent IPA paper, “The Long and Short of It,” written by Les Binet and Peter Field, statistically proves that a succession of short-term, response-focused campaigns won’t have the same level of success as one brand-building campaign. Volume growth can quickly be achieved, but sustainable profit requires pricing effects achievable only through long-term brand building. Whilst the evidence from this IPA paper is noteworthy and valuable for selling in brand campaigns, I wonder to what extent agencies and clients will steer away from their obsession with real time.
Short-term campaigns require a totally different strategy than brand campaigns. If we continually focus on strategies that bring—and flow from—quick wins, we remain rigid and rationalised. The short-term campaigns, with their pressured profit projections and uptakes, yield fanatical statistical evaluations. We can’t get past parading the tabulated consumptions rates, the biblical-like ‘Oh, but the stats say…’. What is lacking is the qualitative, anthropological evaluation—the humanly relevant.
Never emphasised in analyses is what consumers make or do with what they observe, receive and pay for. Despite the fact as humans we forever absorb, observe and subvert to make our own. It’s a matter of life – of living. We are poets of our own acts.
Advertising is no different: we forever process, make our own sense and acts upon TV spots, print ads, tweets. So why do the representations and stats still come first?
Above all it’s about what an ad means and does to people – to you and me.
Kathryn Butterfield is a strategist at gyro London.