Don’t Talk Amongst Yourselves

Welcome back from the break. I hope you all enjoyed a nice decompression and are reenergized for this sprint to the next extended holiday break. You’ll be pleased to know I escaped with nary a scratch after writing my last tirade. I still have my job, I still have my clients, and reps still call me. It’s probably more indicative of how many people read my stuff than how close to the edge I ventured, but that’s another story.

This week, let’s stop looking in the mirror and begin looking around us. Looking in the mirror, we’re just talking to ourselves. We know what we have to say: Online works, it’s efficient, it integrates well with an offline plan, and people are consuming more of this medium every day. Broadband penetration is still increasing — and changing the media consumption dynamic quite a bit in the households it penetrates. Meanwhile, our tools for measurement and accountability are getting better, and so on.

I don’t have any problem with saying this stuff. But we’ve been saying it to ourselves long enough. We need to say it to people who don’t already know or believe it. I’m talking about folks in the traditional agencies we’re asked to partner with.

Last week, at the request of my former media director (MD), I presented an introduction to online media to his entire department. This was prompted by the beginning of the planning season for one of our largest shared clients. My former MD wants to offer the client some innovations and new thinking in media this year. Unfortunately for him, his agency has almost no online media capability to tap. This, combined with the fact my agency is interactive media agency of record (AOR) for the client, brought us to the same table.

I suggested he and his team be the communication architects. My agency can play the role of consultant to help them understand some of the intricacies and nuances of the Internet, then help them build a compelling story — if they decide the Internet is appropriate to their goals. We would then step in as subject-matter experts, and the rest would be history. He agreed the first step would be to give his people a good understanding of the online landscape. Enter my “Introduction” document. My, oh my…

The presentation started with basics such as universe sizes, penetration percentages, broadband trends, media consumption data, and such. Not even a quarter of the way through, I was hearing comments like, “Yeah, the numbers look good. But when I surf the Web over lunch, I just go to places like The New York Times and read articles. I don’t click on ads.” It immediately became apparent these folks have not been listening to all the flowery findings you and I have been speaking so loudly about for the past few years.

Fast-forward to the end of the presentation. Every single planning team in the presentation theater audibly said, “Given what we’ve seen today, we should offer, at minimum, one plan option that includes the Internet. But we won’t know how to make it understandable and compelling to our clients, so we’ll need your help. Will you please help us? We think they will do it if we explain it right.”

I walked out of that presentation amazed. Here was an entire group of media professionals for whom the Internet story rang true — a group that had received its first taste and was thirsty for more. All the evangelizing of the past few years has been amongst ourselves. It’s people like me talking to people like you. That doesn’t get us anywhere, does it?

You already know the good stuff. Now we need to speak to the people who really need to hear it. You may be thinking, “Well, if an agency media department is that uneducated about the largest media revolution in the past several decades, they deserve their fate.” I could say that, too, but I’m on the high road today.

It’s time to help our traditional colleagues get the full grasp of this thing. In many ways, we’re in a position of power. We should take advantage of it while we can. We need to stop talking amongst ourselves and turn our bullhorns to the masses.

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