Persuasion - A lost art?

Some direct response marketers claim that the focus on ROI and auction-based media forces good creative. That notion illustrates a fundamental problem in advertising today—that the art of persuasion is dying. And it's simply not true.

The dominance of direct response has made it so that good creative has been relegated to what performs well in driving clicks. Sure, the more sophisticated wonks out there focus on the second or third click and name it a conversion, but it's still about a click. As long as it fits neatly in a spreadsheet.

Persuading audiences to click may result in measurable ROI, but David Ogilvy would roll over in his grave to think that this is what the art of persuasion has been reduced to. Persuasion has the power to change mass behavior, to create demand, to impact culture, to inspire. It requires an understanding of the rational and the emotional triggers that drive human needs and desires. And when those kinds of insight are combined with creativity, they can be transformative. But sadly, persuasion is an emotional achievement that doesn't always fit neatly into a spreadsheet.

Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't measure and optimize online creative. It's an imperative. So, let's put our tracking tags in place and move on.

When I was at DDB a decade ago, Keith Reinhard came by the office and spoke to us all. He asked us how many famous banner ads we could name. He challenged us to think bravely in a 468 pixel wide box. Direct response driven marketing does not lead us to fulfill that challenge. Rather than compel us to think creatively, it drives the industry to do what worked well last week, but try and make it .01% better at achieving clicks.

Yesterday, I spoke to a direct-focused marketer who told me that honestly, the creative they run that performs best are ads with fear-based messaging, so that's what they wind up running. They hadn't invested in their brand at all because they couldn't measure the ROI of that. And they were steadily seeing a long-term decline in their results.

That is a direct result of online being dominated by direct response.

Two weeks ago, I spoke to a client from a major consumer software brand. He began the conversation by saying that our work and our service was far better than another agency they had been working with, but they had to shift more of their work to that other agency for one reason. They were cheaper. I explained why we charged what we did: the steps we took to ensure quality creative and our rigorous quality assurance testing process. He looked at me with a completely straight face and said "What if we don't care if you do all that QA? That's not how our bonuses are calculated."

That is a direct result of online being dominated by direct response.

Last week, I had the opportunity to see Scott Bedbury, the former CMO of Nike and Starbucks speak. He started off his conversation telling the audience that we were facing the commoditization of Planet Earth and that the perceived difference between brands was never smaller. He reminded us that some of the most important things you can do for a brand are not predictably quantifiable.

I'm sorry. I just can't buy that a shoulder shrug that failed attempts to encourage the advertisers to also care about those earlier in the buy cycle adds up to forcing good creative.

Special thanks to industry vet, Tom Cunniff, for inspiring this post. 

1 comment:

  1. Cool, man. Yeah, as a media guy, I'm usually stuck with the ads that the creative agency comes up with. We know when we get them if they're good or not and they're not always great. I'm glad to know there are creative agencies out there pushing the limits and really trying hard to better the online creative concept.


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