Breaking Bad…Advertising by Firing the Terrible

After reading the Wall Street Journal article on TV upfronts and the declining viewership with only a “flat” spend equivalent from the advertising side, I thought… what’s the problem? How can we see a 10, 20, and even more than 30 percent decline in viewership for some networks yet still spend the same amount of dollars on these shows? What are the metrics for success for these media buyers and what in God’s name are they being held to on the accountability side? Answer, as it’s been for more than 30 years: NOTHING.

It’s understandable; the fear of the unknown is always hard to overcome. And to tell your client, “you know what, you really don’t need to spend that much on TV anymore” is as sacrilegious as it comes. But the honest, smart, and good stewards of their brand advertising clients will do it; they will evaluate and spend based on the way the world is, not how they’d like it to be.

Moreover, the comfy relationship between the agency and media companies is a bit of an issue. Don’t get me wrong, I have personally built lifelong relationships over many drink and dinner outings that are invaluable and I have no qualms there. But it’s when these relationships drive bad or even a no-decision on evaluating return, that’s where the number of martinis shared equals the number of millions of dollars spent equation needs to go away. Let’s all drink and be merry together for sure. But let the spend have some breathing room to reality.

So we need to go from:

(X Martinis) * (Y years of Partying in Cannes) = Total Ad Spend


(X Cost per Million Viewer) * (Y Engagement With Brand) = Total Spend

YouTube is one of my favorite examples. Start by looking at how absolutely huge the YouTube network is. Then at the level of engagement in the content, plus the social TV and immediate transaction opportunity online. And finally the average cost per viewer for ads vs. TV, and you just can’t ignore the economics. Yet, nearly every big media buyer does.

One bright spot is the WPP folks and some of the bigger commitments they’ve made to the likes of YouTube programming and Twitter. Sir Martin should get a light pat on the back for having the right people keeping his behemoth heading in the right direction. With some personal experience in the some of the larger groups under the umbrella, notably JWT, committing to digital as an essential ingredient to every employee’s acumen and skill set, I believe we can look to Paris (and New York) for a glimmer of hope in the agency world. And yes, I understand the pun of looking to Paris for anything pro-business.

If you ask me, we need to cut at least 10 percent of our TV budget (and that’s for all you angry old fearful white guys [Note: I am white and not in the young category] that can’t stomach the real need to look at this) and put into great new online categories like Pandora, Yahoo, YouTube, and all the other niche plays. Do your homework, earn your fees for once this decade, and spend time really figuring it out. If for no other reason, than this oh too familiar fear of the new…because this time the fear should be for your jobs.

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