“Advertising is immoral, not because it is inherently insincere, manipulative, and intrusive, but because it is inefficient.” -James Oyle, Advertising Director
Advertising is about ideas. Ideas produce stories that are communicated to evoke emotions. Brand stories connect to the value systems of its target audience, producing action. Now these ideas have a much greater chance of being lost in the noise. Wasteful advertising has added a layer of media pollution that is degrading society. Despite the technological advances and proliferation of new advertising mediums in the last century, advertising has not become more efficient. It has actually become emptier, and fails to educe a meaningful emotional response in the hearts and minds of its public. Today brand messages are often watered down and pushed through every conceivable media, washing everyone with worthlessness.
A brand story can no longer be forced onto the public. Rather, the story needs to be enabled and expanded by its champions. There can no longer be one big idea. A brand must have many small ideas that can be incubated in the hearts and minds of its public. Once an idea is accepted, or better yet co-created by the public advertisers, the agency can expand on the story it creates.
Age of Disruption
We live in the age of disruption. In the last five years we have seen giant companies topple at a rate never before seen in our country’s history. One-time juggernauts of industry have been humbled, while unsuspecting start-ups have transformed the marketplace. Because of this disruption the advertising landscape needs to change.
In the age of disruption a brand idea needs to be lean and agile. It needs to be able to morph into reality, instead of the traditional way of pushing lies and half-truths out on a mass scale, hoping the assault produces a positive R.O.I.
The “full-service” advertising agency is becoming less desirable in the age of disruption. Many specialized firms are rising to favor because they are able to execute much more efficiently on a tight budget.
“Full-service” agencies’ value proposition has been that they can execute a client’s message through every conceivable medium. This spray and pray technique has wasted billions of dollars on useless waste. Big agencies pile on costs that provide little or even negative value to its clients. Brands do not need to exhaust every imaginable medium to achieve market penetration. The problem is that the agency is too protective of its own interests, and too lazy to do sufficient tests before they saturate the market.
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” -John Wanamaker, department store merchant (1838 – 1922)
With the democratization of media, anyone has the opportunity to tell their story to a large audience. If a brand story is not effectively executed, tested and reiterated it will fall way beyond its potential, no matter the budget.
The world has changed, and consumers have changed with it. People are more informed, have less time, and have different value structures. Often the new consumer is initiating the communication process with a brand. A brand that has a great message will see its message championed by its users. A brand that produces a poor message will see the damage it has caused to its consumer relationship, which cannot be repaired with more advertising. This was true of the past; only now consumers can share and find information much faster than ever before.
The Lean Movement & Advertising
The foundation for the lean movement was formed by Toyota’s lean product development system. Toyota’s processes produced extraordinary results at relatively small costs. Toyota was so successful that the practices were quickly introduced in US manufacturing. The Lean movement was then brought to the start-up community of Silicon Valley, the heart of innovation in the United States. The key principles of the lean movement helped entrepreneurs quickly and inexpensively develop products and services people wanted. This was done through building rapid prototypes and testing it in the marketplace to reach “product/market fit.” The “Lean Start-up Movement” was popularized by Eric Ries’ book, The Lean Startup. In the book Ries introduces the concept of an iterative approach to building a business. It begins with start-ups identifying its “minimum viable product,” or “MVP,” which is the core of the product. The MVP is introduced to the market as quickly as possible to gather feedback from its customers. The start-up then learns what is working and what is not. It continues to go through this “build-measure-learn feedback loop” to deliver a product that has an optimized market fit. The start-up continues this process to form a repeatable and scalable business model.
Advertising agencies could benefit greatly from the lean movement. With lean practices applied, advertising campaigns will be executed faster, effectively tested, and continuously reiterated to efficiently optimize its advertising/market fit. Campaigns will start off as tests to see which media and messaging resonate with its customer archetype. Then the agency will direct more of its budget toward the media and messaging that are working, while conducting follow up tests. Instead of implementing a big strategic advertising plan the lean agency will break the budget into small pieces so it can test various ideas at a time.
Lean Advertising Tests
Applying this scientific approach to advertising should not take away from the creative process. The creative model will stay the same. It is the implementation that will change to better validate the creative idea.
Lean Advertising Campaign
If the advertising industry fails to adopt Lean processes it will become obsolete in the age of disruption. The agencies that incorporate lean methodology and go through a build-measure-learn feedback loop will become the industry leaders. Lean advertising will not only strengthen agencies and brands, but will reduce the marketing pollution that plagues our society. Imagine a world where ads are so effectively targeted that only the potential customer would see it. Brand messages would reflect real values and bring out the best in people who align themselves with a particular product or service. There is a new consumer utopia just around the corner. It’s time for agencies to stop the media carpet-bombing and get lean!
What do you think?
This article was originally published on Mobile Dev Memo
One mystifyingly common mis-step that mobile developers make in attempting to grow a user base is spending meaningful money on paid marketing — especially through an agency or with a freelancer — before building a genuine growth strategy. “Growth strategy” may seem nebulous and vague, but it’s really not; it’s the set of data that guides the marketing team in defining their activities now, their standards for success now, and what success dictates they do next. In other words, it’s the answer to the questions: 1) what can and should we do now to grow our user base given what we know? and 2) if what we know now is proven true, what should we do next?
Constructing this strategy requires gathering inputs from many different sentry stations across the app and the commercial apparatus that has been erected around it:
Monetization. What’s the app’s business model and how does it monetize?
Target Demographic. How can the target demographic be reached? What’s the largest channel that can be used to reach this demographic that must work for the app to be considered successful? Do we have an estimate of some time-based lifetime value for the core, target demographic?
Ad Creative Resonance. What kind of messaging resonates for the demographic mentioned above? What ad format best carries that messaging?
Commercial Priorities. How quickly should the app be scaled? How much money is available to scale the app without marketing money being recouped? Should a percentage of revenues each month be recycled into marketing for the next month?
The two broad questions posed about now and later can only be answered if the fundamental, elemental questions above are answered first. Answering these questions — which span the marketing funnel as well as the in-app behavioral lives of users — is what is entailed in devising a growth strategy. And without addressing these questions and constructing a strategy, a developer is only in a position to acquire users for the purposes of testing; they are not ready to spend real, substantial money on paid marketing in pursuit of “growth”.
Yet many do, partly because answering the questions above is difficult and time-consuming and partly because, after the long and often grueling process of building an app, the developer wants to see many people using it. But spinning up marketing campaigns with the ambitions of growing a user base (as opposed to gathering data for the purposes of honing the business model) before the developer is ready to curate that data by onboarding the right users and interpret that data with thoughtful reporting can be disastrous. Absent a cogent business model that explains exactly how scaled marketing metrics should be read — and which would have dictated which users to acquire in the first place, which obviously has an impact on marketing performance — the company’s management, employees, and investors can easily become discouraged and disillusioned with metrics that aren’t immediately obvious as blowout results.
Freelance marketing consultancies and agencies — to say nothing of in-house performance marketing teams — require very specific guidance and goals to work against. A developer shouldn’t expect that outsourcing its growth strategy to a media buying freelancer will produce acceptable results; it almost never does. Thorough testing and data-gathering in support of the development of a strategy should always precede media buying on mobile.
Advertising has gone through many disruptions. The radio disrupted the poster, the magazine disrupted the radio, and television disrupted them all. However, these new mediums did not change the core method of advertising: persuasion.
Before 1960, advertising had not evolved much since the start of its proliferation. An ad was written by a copywriter and then was handed off to an art director who made it look visually appealing. This all changed when the industry began putting these two people together, sparking a creative revolution.
Since this point advertising grew more and more meaningless and the message more and more irrational. This futility reached its climax in 2007. Markets around the world were shattered, trillions of dollars evaporated, and crazed consumerism seemingly collapsed with it. In the wake of the crash something happened to the advertising industry. The digital revolution went social.
The digital revolution had been going strong ever since the advent of the personal computer. The technology alone was unable to create real change in the way people determined the values of products or an organization’s message. It wasn’t un