A while back, I wrote an article that used the analogy of Willy Wonka, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to illustrate the dot-com demise. I asked the Jaffe Juice faithful to help extend the metaphor and specifically, to answer this question, What’s the Golden Ticket that will help get us to the next level?
I received a number of responses, most of which I printed, but I have to say I was a bit disappointed with the lack of feedback. But then it dawned on me that people might not have suggested answers, because they didn’t have the answers.
The fact is there is no single answer. The answer is a work-in-progress, best epitomized in the phrase: success is a journey, not a destination. We’ve certainly learned the hard way that metrics like clickthrough or approaches such as “if you build it they will come” are a surefire fast track to failure.
I recently attended @d:tech in New York, which was, as most of you either found out first hand or through a series of articles written about the industry get-together, a much needed booster for our bruised business. Under the watchful eye of Susan Bratton, the content was carefully crafted and was well-received by attendance that was a considerable improvement on the year before.
With a healthy influx of new recruits in the crowd, from traditional media folk “forced” to attend, to brand managers searching in vain for the silver bullet that hits home with senior management, I observed firsthand that there are still plenty of people who are still very much in the dark. I was surprised by how people came to the event looking for the answer. And I suspect they’re not alone.
To these people, the keynotes and panel discussions become gospel. And it is for this very reason that the words of wisdom that emanate from the elevated tee need to be scrutinized that much more carefully.
Many…ok most…ok all panelists have their own agendas to fill. Accepting an inevitable amount of plug-and-play is par for the course, however this often gives way to deep-seated frustrations that typically manifest themselves in Q&A rants whereby the moderator will always ask, is there a question buried somewhere in there?
This brand of self service is not restricted to buyers or sellers, not does it discriminate between levels of seniority (Donny Deutsch did it recently at the ANA conference). Consultants are perhaps best positioned to present an objective and/or controversial point of view (I’m doing it right now); however are not immune to the lures of self-promotion, with the launch of a new book or service offering normally close in tow (incidentally, my book should be ready this year).
On the flipside, there are certain truths you may never get to hear. So when are you viewing hot air versus cold facts? Reversing the roles helps to sort out the bravery from the bravado. And let’s face it, if you were in their shoes, you’d probably do the same.
Do you ever think you’ll hear an interactive agency person lamenting on the hardships of convincing their traditional counterpart about online? Or did you ever hear the one about the agency executive from one of the big four monoliths talking about whether consolidation will ghettoize the interactive industry? Do you think you’ll ever hear a publisher talk about the benefits of doing direct to client vs. working through an agency?
Or what about a panel of interactive clients explaining why next year’s budget will really be stagnant at 1% or a fraction thereof?
I happened to have attended this very discussion and I’ll dissect a few of these flagrant fouls I witnessed.
One reason offered was that online just doesn’t give the same kind of quantifiable results compared to offline.
Would someone please explain to me just how quantifiable offline really is, other than we spend a lot of money and sales seem to go up?
I wonder what would happen if we stopped trying to quantify every last dime spent on online, and concentrated instead on how much of offline we can’t quantify.
Let’s begin determining how much offline is blatantly wasted. Hell, while we’re at it, let’s see if John Wanamaker’s famous axiom needs a complete overhaul.
Then there was a comment about how online doesn’t scale well for a mass marketer that needs to reach 80% of the population. This was followed by the lamentation that it just isn’t possible to spend $250-$300mm online.
So why not start with $25-30mm and work your way up? Also, just because you can reach 80% of the population, doesn’t mean you have to. Yes, Sprint, Verizon, Cingular and T-mobile can reach me and certainly would dump me into the 80% pit, but unless they give me the same cell number, I will never switch from AT&T.
And then there’s the Pareto Principle that clearly most people don’t understand.
Finally, there was the priceless utterance that people need to have a purpose before they sit down on their computers to use the Web (and for this reason, brand advertising is less relevant). I don’t know about you but when last I checked, people are flocking to the Web in droves for many reasons other than seeking information and/or getting deals on product purchases. From greeting cards to premium games like Everquest; from mp3s to mpegs; from communities of interest to matchmaking, there is plenty of entertainment occurring right underneath our noses (literally).
These views (and the last one in particular) are both naïve and misinformed. It is downright negligent to sprout this kind of twaddle in such forums. Panelists have a responsibility to speak responsibly and for those that choose to do otherwise, consider yourselves warned…you will be dissected.
A conference is only as strong as its weakest panel; a panel is only as strong as its weakest panelist. A panel’s performance is directly proportional to the selection of the moderator and panelists, together with the amount of pre-planning, preparation and review.
Fortunately for us, there are several organizations that are bringing this kind of professionalism, diligence, care and commitment to the table. It is this kind of groundwork, forward thinking and hard work that might just help us get a little closer to that elusive answer.
The first golden ticket is the golden ticket of education, in the form of event- or community-based content. It will form the very foundation of the road ahead.
In the weeks to follow, I’ll be continuing the golden ticket theme.