Monday, December 30, 2013

They can't do what we do ...

Before the widespread adoption of the web there were only two significant options for a business to gain attention for its products in the media – to buy expensive advertising, or buy PR for third party column space.

Aficionados of the Mad Men television series set in the 60s will have gained some insight into the former excesses of the advertising world through the fictional character of creative director Donald Draper. A world inhabited by snappily suited ad men with a prodigious appetite for the consumption of alcohol, smoking and the pursuit of attractive women. Set in a fictional advertising agency on New York’s Madison Avenue home to the advertising industry with the name ‘Madison Avenue’ used as shorthand for the industry itself and hence the play on words for the series title. The only evidence of work appeared to be scribbling doodles on restaurant napkins or more frequently lying on a couch in their extravagantly appointed offices ostensibly thinking up creative ideas and client meetings to ‘sell’ a concept. The expensive offices and lavish lifestyle called for clients with big budgets to bank roll advertising land. My own occasional glimpses of London’s West End advertising agencies in the 70s showed grand offices and generous expense accounts were normal here too. I cannot vouch for the rest of the life style of the ad men.

PR agencies so far as I am aware have not enjoyed the accolade of an award -winning TV series, but the practitioners representing political clients have collectively been referred to as ‘spin doctors’ which is hardly a good image for the profession. Individually the nickname of  ‘Prince of Darkness’ and later the ‘Dark Lord’ were appended to Lord Mandelson who as Director of Communications helped rebrand the Labour Party as ‘New’ Labour and of course there was the infamous former German Minister of Propaganda, Dr Josef Goebbels who explored the darkest depths of news manipulation.  

Then along came the Internet and the World Wide Web. The media opened up to even the smallest business, not just locally, but globally. Since publishing Techniques in Technical Marketing in 2000, the web has moved into a new phase with social media offering alternatives to the main ‘above the line’ media options.

This blog is intended as a simple introduction to where marketing has been headed in the last decade and some things that owners of small to medium size businesses in the B-2-B area should know including when to bring in outsourced marketing expertise..

Last word from the fictional creative director, “They can’t do what we do and they hate us for it.” The thing is the media might be more accessible but the creative expertise that causes one manufacturer’s product to be preferred over another is not.   

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