Brett King

The Mad Men are Dead – Long Live Engagement

In Engagement Banking, Media on September 7, 2010 at 02:46

The perfect Ad is something advertisers dream about. Some “mAd” men, go their entire career searching for it, others who are creatively gifted, come up with home runs, Gold Lions and accolades time and time again. Mad men have come to believe that if you can get the perfect mix of emotion, message, imagery, nuance and impact – that you can practically sell anything. There are Ad’s that make us laugh, make us cry, sit in awe, or clutch our hand to our mouth in disbelief. Messages that have the ability to inspire, change our opinions and most importantly get us to part with our hard earned cash in exchange for a little piece of that same magic that was embodied in that message.

There’s only one problem – those messages … aren’t getting through any more.

The problem

The digital world has been upon us for close to two decades, starting with the emergence of the commercial internet back in 1994. In October 1994, HotWired (Wired Magazine’s former online brand) made history by placing on their website the very first banner ad for none other than AT&T.

Figure 1 - The first ever banner Ad (Credit: Hotwired and AT&T)

That may not have seemed significant at the time, but it represented a very significant shift in advertising modality – a move from static messages, to interactions in response to a message. The difference with this Ad was that you could ‘talk back’. It allowed you to have a dialog of sorts, to be part of the experience, rather than just passively watching, listening or reading the Ad. Why is this important?

Marketing 101 states that consumer behavior is defined by things such as stimulus response, cultural and core values, social influences, personal determinants, and psychology. Marketing (and Advertising) has been mostly designed to influence behavior – the accepted mantra being that if those messages work, then the ‘brand’ or product becomes embedded in a ‘choice-set’ of filtered options. The premise is that if the message works, then you will recall the product or brand at the critical time. We’ve been delivering those messages by broadcasting to audiences through mediums such as our TVs, newspapers, radio, direct mail catalogues or offers, and billboards.

Over time, however, as consumers have been bombarded with more and more messages in greater frequency and breadth, it’s become more difficult for advertisers to get ‘their’ message to dominate and influence your behavior. This has lead to increasingly brash TV Commercials (i.e. think Superbowl) and other such Ads driving the psychology of advertising into a superfine art and science. The problem is that these broadcast methods are largely failing today. Why? Simply put, the message is no longer enough, as consumers we have to be engaged.

The death of the campaign

In 2008, the Internet surpassed all media except television as the primary source for national and international news. In March 2009, the 146-year-old newspaper Seattle Post-Intelligencer went completely virtual. Since January 2008, at last count, 58 regional newspapers in Britain have “folded”. New York Times reported a $35.6 million loss for the 2009 third quarter alone due to falling Ad revenues. In 2009 TV Ad spend declined by as much as 22% in the US, declines of 27% and more were recorded in radio too. In the UK, TV Ad revenues were down 12–14% in 2009, but OFCOM has forecast the total TV Ad spend in the UK could fall from £3.16 billion in 2007 to £520 million in 2020 – an 83% decline. This is a trend that we’ve been seeing for more than a decade. In fact, the only forms of Ad spend that have consistently increased in the last 10 years are web, mobile and most recently social media based advertising.

This is more than a shift in modality, it is a change in the way we process marketing messages. Those that have the highest impact are contextual, based on our own searches, criteria, classifications or psychology. Increasingly, they are time sensitive and are in response to a behavioral trigger, event or a location. Because of increasing use of digital interactions, the messages have had to become experiences with the intent to engage us and produce a response in real-time. It is no longer sufficient to deliver a static message and hope for a latent stimuli response…

This is why the campaign itself is failing. Campaigns rely on the assumption that if I choose the right segment, and marry the right message – I can get a latent stimulus response that will result in a change in buyer behavior at a future date. But the digital space is teaching us that latent response based on broadcast messages are simply not for us – they aren’t targeted, we can’t respond in real-time, and more often than not, they are delivered when we don’t have a need; so we filter them out, ignoring them – thus they just aren’t effective. In fact, we even have technology now such as TiVo to automatically block them. While brand will still be able to be reinforced through broadcast (if you can afford it,) campaigns cannot possibly survive because the ROI is not sustainable with decreasing effectiveness.

As modality shifts, "Messages" like this are untenable thru traditional broadcast media

Engage me – don’t tell me

So that’s why advertisers need to think differently about the journey or behavior of the consumer. We have to forget the concept of producing a latent response through the impact of telling consumers a message, we have to aim to deliver a message that elicits a response in real-time. In that respect, the more poorly targeted the message is, the greater the likelihood is that the engagement will fail – so broadcast campaigns designed to be one-size-fits-all need to be exorcised from our marketing departments today. We need to be thinking beyond the message – we need to create an engagement experience.

Engagement Banking

For bankers, it’s going to be even worse. Banker’s are relying not only on a latent response to a campaign message, but they’re also relying on you to physically walk into a branch to demonstrate your response to that message. Increasingly this is just not going to happen. The engagement has to be brought to the customer! Think blockbuster, no amount of advertising is going to change my behavior when it comes to downloading movies and getting me back in the store…

Last week Sapient, Geezeo and BANK 2.0 launched what is the first ever digital whitepaper based on this concept of engagement banking. Check out the engagement and tell me how you are planning on reaching your customers and getting rid of the campaign – ping me on Twitter (@brettking) with the hashtag #engagementbanking. Whatever the case may be, starting phasing out campaigns today – get targeted, get digital and engage!

  1. There is a role for advertising to generate name awareness, not just stimulate consumers’ interest in sales campaigns. Most of the passive (and probably funny) TV commercials you see from big brands falls into the “name awareness” category. There are those who think awareness advertising has no place in the modern media mix, but they are usually the same kind of people who believe the internet is the only channel marketers need.

    • JP,

      Agree – That’s why I separated the distinction into ‘campaign’ versus brand marketing. I believe brand awareness is still possible through traditional broadcast approaches, but for product or service selling, the issue is ROI and effectiveness of broadcast methods – which is failing. Given decreasing channel effectiveness ultimately the end game is that targeted marketing is essential to trigger responses for product.


  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Erik Sontum, Øystein Bortne. Øystein Bortne said: Interessant å lese om "markedsføringskampanjens død" @brettking The Mad Men are Dead – Long Live Engagement: […]

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