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An Open Letter to Luddites

  |  April 16, 2009   |  Comments

If you're a senior marketing executive who thinks emerging media is for kids, you're doing consumers a disservice.

I'm always a little shocked to hear marketing executives talk about new media as those things that their kids use. I hear a lot about daughters who are constantly texting, sons who can't be without their gaming device, this "new generation" that never sits to watch TV anymore, what with all of their newfangled DVR'ing and ad skipping. What happens? The day after a certain birthday, any capacity you had to use or be interested in new things just vaporizes?

Indeed, life gets complicated, increasingly full of responsibilities and short on free time. Those same kids don't take the car to get fixed, prepare your taxes, or change the batteries in the smoke alarms around the house. You and I do that stuff. But that's exactly the reason to get into new technologies and doohickeys. They save time, they open up ways to do things more easily, they put hard-to-find information at our fingertips, and they reach people when and where they're hard to normally reach.

I don't expect you to don a Bluetooth headset, start blogging, crowd-source game cheats in the tweetverse, and quit your job to develop fart apps for the iPhone full-time. At least not right away.

But, You're in the Way

A key reason for the slow progress of spending and tactical development of channels such as mobile marketing, despite the enormous growth in consumer mobile usage, is that senior executives who make decisions about channels and budget allocations often aren't familiar with (or curious about) how they work. Not everyone. Just the ones who think all of this stuff is hokey, or for young people or too complicated to use.

Now, nobody expects executives to buy into programs that don't provide all of the expected media metrics including reach, interactions, and ROI (define). But that's not the case with mobile. Leading brands have launched hundreds of successful mobile campaigns that have performed well, and in many cases, have outperformed other media options for the same spend.

This Stuff Is for Everyone, Not Just Your Kids

If you control ad budgets and have responsibilities for reaching consumers and communicating with them, go play with an iPhone. Open the browser on a Blackberry, click on an ad and see where it takes you. Download some of the incredible apps for the various platforms. Trust me, they're not all first-person shooter games. I'm currently obsessed with "The New York Times" crossword puzzles app. I haven't checked my bank or credit card balances or paid a bill online in months. I've been doing it on my device, not just while I'm traveling out of town, but when it would have been impractical to open my laptop. Yesterday, I settled a bet with someone while standing in New York's Bryant Park (free public Wi-Fi) and got the answer instantly by texting a word to a great service called 4INFO (I was right). I watched much of the recent NCAA Basketball Tournament online and on my iPhone. A few weeks ago, my colleagues and I bested the Hertz NeverLost in-car GPS system using both Google Maps on an iPhone and the AT&T Navigator mapping service on a Blackberry by getting easier-to-use directions to our hotel after missing a turn in an area we'd never driven through before.

If I may, I'd like to suggest that you sign up for Twitter and get a feel for what millions of people are saying about events, attitudes, and even brands around the world. Use Facebook to recruit your foursome for golf next weekend, text your spouse the next time you're in the store and you can't remember which cereal you were supposed to get (I just did that yesterday).

David Ogilvy famously wrote, "The consumer isn't a moron; she is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She wants all the information you can give her." The mobile consumer is your wife as well. And she (and the 60+ million Americans who use the mobile Web) is accessing information, messages, and promotions, making brand purchase decisions constantly, and most importantly, doing it closer to the store than she can through any other channel.

My message isn't that you're old, out of touch, and impeding the progress of viable channels that you ought to know about (actually someone else just Tweeted that about you). I'm saying that new media isn't for the young, irresponsible, time-advantaged, and technologically savvy only. It's required homework for media decision makers. You can complain to me about my attitude and tendency to generalize that all senior executives are Luddites, but let's talk after you've tried out a slew of these things and discover how life-changing they are for you and the consumers we're trying to relate to.


Eric Bader

Eric Bader is a partner in BrandInHand, a full-service mobile marketing and media company that serves global brand marketers, partners with agencies, and assists emerging media companies. BrandInHand's clients span the consumer goods, financial services, technology, and retail industries.

Prior to forming BrandInHand, Bader served as managing director of digital at MediaVest Worldwide. A new media veteran, he was formerly the head of online enterprises at CSTV Networks (now CBSSports) and, prior to that, executive director of interactive marketing at Ogilvy.

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