Friday, 6 June 2008

Why Advertising Needs Its Head Examined

I was in Dubai earlier this week and had a terrific time. I'll be writing a post about it very shortly as there is a lot to share and a few assumptions that need clarification about this very cosmopolitan part of the world.

However, in the mean time it just struck me while departing through the airport that while it's all fine and good to have a decent monologue with customers beating our brand chests, the whole point about the 21st century marketing and Web 2.0/Digital dialogue is that if brands aren't able to shift into that dialogue mode when circumstances demand, then they end up losing so much of their effort.

Their credibility, their hard work, professionalism, vision and outlook. Everything is contextual (yes I know 'yawn') and if the only context that agencies can think of for their clients are rose coloured Ray Bans with duty free fragrance, then they are aggravating problems and pathologically avoiding the solution.

There is quite possibly nothing more patronising then seeing the output of 20th century marketing automatons delivering a monologue on the virtues of a brand when the reality is all too evident that agencies and marketing folk are a bunch of money grubbing air heads that don't know how to turn around a problem into an a golden opportunity.

As Rob says quite rightly, a customer complaint is a brilliant opportunity to create a brand advocate. I say a problem is when we really need to start talking to customers not just invading their social media/digital arena when it suits us.

All the time these poor folks were dealing with the reality of 3rd millennium air travel and the inevitable delays, a screen the size of three billiard tables above them was spouting forth the usual distorted advertising superlatives that are perfectly applicable when everything is ticketyboo (A Hindi expression "tikai babu," meaning "it's all right, sir.") but are a shameless example of why most marketing blows chunks big time, and why advertising specifically is seen as only slightly higher up the food chain than political rhetoric.

I absolutely love great advertising and I'm a great admirer of Emirates the airline, but if any brand or agency isn't talking about ways to open up a meaningful dialogue with their customers during the inevitable part of life when things don't go according to plan then very simply they are inevitably wasting money on advertising 1.0 and pissing off people with the sort of bad manners we reserve for bores at dinner parties that dominate the conversation with the sound of their own voice. I've got 20 ideas in my head how Emirates and Dubai could win over everyone of the carpet sleepers I saw that night but you can rest assured that filling that stadium screen with more chest beating 'hub of the world' content is way more important than getting some digital/web/advertising 2.0 solutions into the mix.

Making profits isn't as hard as it made out to be. Losing customer loyalty and the money that goes with it is even easier.

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