Friday, March 06, 2009

As Viewers Gain Control, So Too, Do Advertisers

It happened again.

This week at the 4A's conference down in New Orleans, another top agency executive went on to say the following: "The consumer is in control and as a result, we are not."

Frankly, I have never understood the concept of "control" as being that of all or nothing. But apparently, either marketers are in control. Or, the consumer is.

Maybe the industry's plea of helplessness is just their way of defending the fact that they don't have any answers as to why advertising doesn't seem to be working as well as it used to. "Well, you see," goes the excuse, "we're no longer in control."

With all due respect, can we stop the whining?

Let's look at advertisers. Yes, it's certainly true that you have lost some of the control that you used to have over what advertising the consumer saw when. But, let's look at what you have gained - data as to how well the advertising you are running is actually working.

Now, I'm not saying that you're going to be happy with what the data reveals. But you now have access to more information than ever before. And if you don't use that information to optimize both your media buys and your creative product, well, then perhaps your plea of helplessness is justified.

True, advertisers have lost control to consumers, but in return you have gained control over your agencies. Which means that for the first time you can actually hold them accountable for things working as well as they promised you that they would work.

In regards to your media agency, instead of buying a hope and a prayer on a CPM basis, you can now buy on a CPC basis. Instead of impressions, you can buy actual interactions. Waste is reduced to almost nothing. Accountability can now be laid to rest squarely on the media agency's shoulders to deliver what they said they would deliver.

That seems to me like gaining control, not losing it.

As for your creative agencies, well, your control over them has also increased tremendously. Advertisers never really knew if the commercial that was so highly praised by their agency's creative gurus actually ever involved anyone or not. Oh, sure, it may have won its shares of awards, but did those folks in Middle America actually pay any attention to it when it ran?

To be honest, advertisers were clueless.

But today, by giving the viewer the control to opt-in when they're interested and to opt-out when they're not, advertisers have a running scorecard of digital data to which they can hold their agencies accountable.

If only ten seconds of a sixty-second spot are watched, an advertiser will know it.

And, if they continue to pay their agency full-fare for the fifty-seconds that they were told would be watched and weren't, well, that's their own fault.

Yes, advertisers have given up control to the viewer. But, in return, they have gained information. Which can easily be turned into knowledge.

With knowledge comes power.

And, the truth is, those with the power, are those in control.

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