The Bucks, Not the Bucs

The Buccaneers won, but the game wasn’t what I enjoyed. Watching the ads during the Super Bowl is an event in and of itself. For marketers, it’s something to look forward to. Commentators speculate on what the best ad will be. Production values are incredible. Budgets are astronomical.

The Washington Post noted: NFL corporate sponsors pay millions of dollars to be able to identify themselves with the league in advertising throughout the season and at Super Bowl week events and parties. Coors Brewing Co., for instance, signed a reported $300 million, five-year deal with the NFL last year to oust Budweiser and Miller as the league’s “official beer.” Similarly, PepsiCo. booted its rival, Coca-Cola, and is the official soft drink of the NFL.

How many of you just switched from Coke to Pepsi?

Does anyone else wonder if Coors will sell $300 million more over the next five years as a result of this tie-in? Will it recoup this money? Do people buy beer because it’s the “Official Beer of the NFL,” or do price, taste, availability, snob appeal, and other factors have higher value? Why pay a hefty price if you won’t see a return on investment (ROI)? What objectives are at play?

Perhaps the problem lies in creative departments putting more stock in winning paperweights at The One Show than in moving a sales curve. Maybe it’s media reps who push their inventory and outlets without regard for advertiser needs. Account planners often buy so they can move on to the next project. Where does the line end? What will it take to create accountable advertising?

The ad industry doesn’t take all the blame. It’s shared by the client.

Many clients are ignorant. For all the money they spend on advertising, they might want to learn what it is they buy. Instead, they buy what they “like,” without regard for integrating advertising with PR, promotions, internal communications, or retail design. When advertising doesn’t work, they’re confused. After all, the agency won some sort of crystal trophy at an Ad Club show in Pascagoula.

Clients ask the wrong questions. Agencies and ad reps have little interest in finding the right answers. That could mean money from their pockets. It’s a circular firing squad filled with failure and bad faith. Isn’t it counterintuitive to pay an agency for media placement for ads they create to help sell your product? If those ads don’t improve results, the agency advises you to run more ads.

Clients spending thousands (millions isn’t unusual) without a clue get the advertising they deserve.

I once blamed the ad industry. I’m coming to realize clients just don’t want to be educated about what they buy. Ads, Web sites, email campaigns, and marketing plans presented to them are retooled to their own tastes and visions. Most are frighteningly off base.

Brett Feinstein, partner in Pound, Feinstein & Associates and assistant professorial lecturer at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University, is blunt on the subject:

Until the clients decide they want to stop getting ripped off, the ads are going to continue to suck. Look at it this way. Anheuser Busch spends millions on talking lizards to push Bud. Think about this. Talking friggin’ lizards pushing beer. Are the commercials cute? Sure. Have they won awards? Absolutely. Do they make you want to drink Bud? Please. Millions of dollars have been spent on talking lizards. And Bud’s market share continues to plummet. Shame on the agency for even creating that drivel. And shame on the client for looking at it and lacking an iota of common sense to think that some reptile makes beer drinkers more likely to buy the product. That ad campaign won tons of awards. And it sucked. And the sales graph proves it sucked.

Another case for the bubblegum marketing files.

If this continues in traditional advertising, rigorously studied for almost a century, when will clients demand the right questions be answered regarding their online initiatives? When will clients recognize the true measure of success is results, not response?

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