Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Has marketing got a million times harder?

I’ve been in the communications industry for 15 years now. I’ve worked in DM agencies, advertising agencies, integrated agencies, digital agencies, I ran my own business for a few years.

In that time I’ve helped send millions of direct mail packs to blanket audiences. I’ve helped spend millions on hair-brained dot com marketing schemes. I’ve helped build a customer base of millions, from scratch, for an ISP with no USP. I’ve launched TV ads that have had over 200 million opportunities to see. I’ve delivered online display campaigns with over 500 million page impressions.

I’ve been involved in some really good work over the years, but without wishing to bag my career, I’ve done an awful lot of untargeted, unmeasurable, unmeasured stuff. It’s been pretty, it’s won awards, it’s been a sensation, it’s been hailed as innovative, but actually when you dig below the surface it’s rested on some relatively shallow foundations. Even the stuff that was measured for marketing effectiveness was based on some funny old massaged metrics.

And on top of all that, I’ve worked bloody hard. I’ve done 18 hour days, 7 days a week, for 2 months straight. I’ve done press passes at 3.30 in the morning. I’ve spent all night sat on floors envelope stuffing, I’ve worked 72 hours straight to get a piece of work out. I’ve sat with a creative department and studio of 30 people, all of us, maccing, creating, splicing and boarding until 6 in the morning for a pitch at 9am.

But that stuff was easy…

...that stuff took a bit of thinking up front, it took the adaptation of a template that we took off the shelf, granted it involved some highly talented creative sparks (but that’s rarely been me) and then it took some schmoozing, a couple of awkward get out of jail client calls, a bit of elbow grease and out the campaign went. Brilliant.

Those days have gone. They’re long gone. The template doesn’t exist anymore. Shiny and pin-sharp holds little of the overall value these days. Every single piece of work I start on today is built from the ground up. Every solution we deliver is completely bespoke. Every piece of work has an inordinate amount of brain-work poured in to it, because none of it is about launch, it’s all about the long tail, the follow-up work, the impact on reputation long-term. The industry’s said that’s what we do for years. Actually if we all admit it, none of us has really worried too much about it, because frankly we could make more money not worrying about it.

Come on, be honest. That’s right, really honest. Yes you’ve probably done some amazing work, you’ve probably done some award-winning work, some work you were really proud of, but be honest, was it really hard work? It may have been tiring, stressful work, but was it hard work, work that made your brain permanently fizz?

Marketing’s got harder, a million times harder, but actually I think I might actually stick at it now, because it’s a damn sight more rewarding than it was in the past.

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