Let Us Now Praise Famous Marketers
Why would a client pay for an advertisement congratulating its service provider for good work? Columnist David Rodnitzky explains the reasoning behind such a move, yet wonders why the industry still thinks this way.
Some exciting news from the world of advertising earlier this month: DigitasLBI won three Media Plan of the Year (MPOY) awards for its “Blackout” campaign for Taco Bell. In an industry that seemingly values awards more than actual ROI, this is a big deal.
As you might expect, Digitas quickly released a press release trumpeting the wins. Perhaps more surprising, however, was a full-page ad in Adweek with the same message.
You may be saying at this point: If the agency put out a press release about their wins, why is it so surprising that they’d also run an ad to further amplify their victory?
Ah, there’s the rub. It wasn’t Digitas that forked out the cash for the ad; it was Taco Bell. Here it is in all of its glory:
I was trying to think of an example in another industry where a client paid for an advertisement congratulating its service provider for good work.
I certainly have never contemplated doing this with any of my service providers in my personal life, though I suppose my dentist would be quite happy if I lauded him in Dentalweek:
Advertising, Huh! What Is It Good For?
This strange ad got me to thinking. What was Taco Bell’s objective in placing it? I Googled “what is the purpose of advertising” to try to generate some rationale.
The best definition I could find came from Entrepreneur magazine:
The purpose of advertising is to:
- Make customers aware of your product or service.
- Convince customers that your company’s product or service is right for their needs.
- Create a desire for your product or service.
- Enhance the image of your company.
- Announce new products or services.
- Reinforce salespeople’s messages.
- Make customers take the next step (ask for more information, request a sample, place an order and so on).
- Draw customers to your business.
This seems like a pretty thorough definition to me. So what, then, was the purpose of Taco Bell’s advertisement in this case?
Of all the bullets above, the only one that seemed relevant here was to “enhance the image of your company.” But why would Taco Bell want to enhance the image of its agency to other advertising professionals?
Sure, if Taco Bell’s chalupa won “best Mexican food of the year” in some prestigious food magazine, it would make perfect sense to spam the globe with ads letting consumers know about the victory. But this ad was neither selling its actual product nor targeting its actual audience.
ROI, Huh! What Is It Good For?
My experience over the last seven years in the direct response agency space has been the polar opposite of the Taco Bell-Digitas love fest.
It’s not that our clients don’t love us, by the way; it’s that they are usually obsessed with not letting anyone know that they’re working with us or what we’re doing to help them succeed.
Getting our clients to let us mention them in the press is like pulling teeth (dental reference #2 of this post). And actually getting them to agree to a case study outlining the tactics we created to drive great results? Unheard of!
It occurs to me that this dichotomy — between the close-to-the-vest direct response marketer and the boisterous brander — is driven by the metrics of the two sub-specialties of marketing.
Direct response marketers are judged based on performance — you know, things like profit, ROI and year-over-year improvement. Brand marketers are ostensibly measured by metrics that show awareness — lift, frequency, mind share — but seem equally judged on “coolness,” or the number of awards, tweets or articles that their work earns.
Consider, for example, the hilarious Old Spice ads that ran a few years ago with actor Isaiah Mustafa, “the man your man could smell like.” Like the Digitas-Taco Bell campaigns, Old Spice and its agency won a ton of awards, including the Film Grand Prix International at Cannes. The ads also resulted in 94 million YouTube views and increased traffic to Old Spice’s website by 300 percent.
Alas, from a sales perspective, the results were mixed at best: “In the 52 weeks ended June 13, it had a roughly flat share in a category that grew a robust 8.6%,” according to Advertising Age, citing data from SymphonyIRI.
Do you think the agency or the CMO at Old Spice got fired for apparently running awesome creative that drove little to no measurable impact on sales? I doubt it.
I’m guessing there were a lot of promotions — and perhaps even a few congratulatory ads in Adweek, as well.
The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades
So what’s the purpose of that $10,000 (or more?) thank-you message to Digitas? There can really be only two reasons.
First, vanity. The ad is a way for the marketing team at Taco Bell to let all of their friends at other companies know that they were really smart when they picked Digitas and that they had won an award. After all, it would be uncouth to run an ad congratulating themselves, so best to use Digitas as the proxy for patting themselves on the back.
Second, it’s great branding. Not, of course, for Taco Bell itself, but for the Taco Bell marketing team. Letting your peers know that you (er, your agency) won an award is great awareness for your personal brand. (Perhaps the folks at Chipotle might see it and want to offer you an extra $75K/yr. to join their team?)
And no, neither of these reasons is actually going to benefit Taco Bell in any way, but who really cares about fiduciary duties to shareholders these days, anyway?