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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

2006: A Novel

Another year gone by, and what's really changed?

Seth "Free Prize Inside" Godin reminds us once again that it's the contents inside the book, not the cover, that ultimately matters.

So it's with some dismay that I read the business pages in the dying days of '06. The Globe and Mail is encapsulating the year's television commercial reviews "of the ad agency creatives, by the ad agency creatives."

Anyone with a shred of intellectual honesty would at least acknowledge that ultimately it shouldn't be a question of whether this year's Molson Canadian commercial is interesting, but whether Molson Canadian itself is interesting. It isn't. It's the same beer, year after year. A so-so brew in a formerly magnificent market segment that's in a long, steady decline. And we know where to find it. In the Beer Store, in packs of 6, 12, 24, and 28 if they're really going to town with the marketing gimmicks.

But put product quality or compellingness aside, even. Do the campaigns measurably move the needle on sales, to a degree that exceeds the cost of the campaign?

Ad agencies (even the one that still bears his name) must do all they can to distract us from a sensible maxim put forth by David Ogilvy himself: the effectiveness of a campaign should be judged by its success in creating new customers, or generating rapid uptake of a new product.

And the hand-wringing of female ad agency execs over sexist campaigns presided over by their well-paid sisters in rival agencies -- baffling. If you wanted to be high-minded, surely you wouldn't be in the business you're in at all. That your sisters approved said campaigns suggests that you, too, would do so, had you been in their shoes.

So what the "ad agency reviews by ad agency people" series really does is to prolong the interruption marketing discourse of the TV-industrial complex (thanks C.W. Mills and Seth, for the cool buzzwords), allowing execs to rat on each other for not being quite clever or high-minded enough.

The lesson we should learn is that when the same old people keep dominating a discourse even though their measurable results are deep in the red, they're probably grasping at straws. And if you're looking for your soul, probably the ad agency roundtable will be the wrong place to discover it. Case in point, one of the reviewers criticized the Telus bunnies, probably in a bid to wrest some business away from upstart agency Taxi.

For shame. Every ordinary person I've talked to loves the Telus bunnies. Talk around the bar (while drinking anything but Molson Canadian) doesn't say "Wow, this account sure is on autopilot." It's more like "I don't care. I can't help it. I love those bunnies."

Cute bunnies and souls aside, the future will belong to those who measure.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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