In advertising, new is always perceived as better. Heck, the concept is part of our professional lingo: New! New and Improved! Brand New! So now, social media is being touted as the next new big thing. All of sudden, EVERYTHING is social. Shit terminology like SEO, copydeck, and wireframe replace what used to be known as technical writing, text, and diagram, respectively. Agencies and clients are shifting their budgets to social; social managers and “social experience agencies” are sprouting up like weeds. A website won’t suffice; you need a “social engagement strategy.”
I embrace change and find the new direction that marketing is taking to be very interesting, but one should not forget about the purpose of and reason for things. What troubles me is how we, as an industry, are measuring success. It seems as if the number of “likes” and retweets and “people talking about this” are more important than actual cars/hamburgers/bottles of Coke sold. I accept that we are in the conversation economy, but if I were a jeans maker, I’d much rather SELL a shitload of jeans rather than have millions of people just TALK about my jeans.
Call me old fashioned, but to me advertising is all about selling, plain and simple. Yes, our methods of selling are more glamorous than those of a used-car salesman, but at the end of the day, the seal of our success is the sell. You can dress it up all you want with catchy phrases and creative jargon, but selling is selling.
Case #1: Burger King recently woke up and smelled the roses. After years as a social media/viral video pioneer, BK saw that it had an amazing online/social/viral presence (Subservient Chicken, A Day Without Whooper, etc.) but THEY WEREN’T SELLING BURGERS. Their solution? Change ad agencies and, I now quote their corporate website, “go back to basics and create food-centric advertising.” In other words, show fucking burgers and make people hungry enough to go out and BUY your burger, not just TALK about it.
Case #2: The agency where I work is beginning to see that in order to persuade people to get social with the brand, you first have to tell them to do so. How do you achieve this? By running basic, old-school TV, print, and radio ads. After spending a shitload of money in building a digital department to come up with awesome social campaigns, they’re now relying on the old farts to create engaging TV, radio and print pieces to drive people online.
Like I said, I embrace change, but why reinvent what already works?