Shootout at the Ad Week Corral: CMO Summary

10 Oct 2011|Miguel Winebrenner

There were lots of examples at Advertising Week demonstrating how to shoot from the hip. On the one hand by advertising agencies, many of whom are executing based on insights that are derived from a sample of “n=1-3 creatives.” Furthermore, by companies such as (who’s CEO was literally wearing cowboy boots) and Tickr that aggregate lots of information, but don’t analyze it. Overall, my impression from the panels I’ve attended is that strategic planning, analysis, and a deep understanding of the marketplace are being- intentionally or unintentionally- overlooked.

I get it- budgets are tight, and everyone wants fast and cheap information.

However, consider two implications:

A. Your team could be crafting strategies based on isolated non-representative data
B. 2 to 4 non-representative people could be determining the fate of your brand

Imagine you own a flavored water brand and you’ve decided to invest in social media as your primary market research tool (because it’s fast and cheap). A tweet comes through from a woman in Florida saying how she picks the flavor of her water (and therefore the color) based on what she’s wearing- “@sportsdrinker- just bought orange mineral water to match my cute orange mini”. Sounds good, right!? Does this mean that one develops a strategy or campaign predicated upon CPG shopping & fashion? Does it translate into a commercial? It could be a great strategy platform (co-marketing with Target, multi-platform advertising, etc). And it could be a creative’s dream if it turns into a fad whereby we choose Snickers over Three Musketeers on days in which we wear brown shoes. But the fact of the matter is that it’s a huge risk with overwhelmingly low odds to source insight from scattered data points. Unless you use those data points directionally and then go through a full vetting process.

Not worse, but just as bad are cases from Ad Week where “because budgets didn’t allow,” agencies, without a single data point but rather personal life experiences, are coming up with strategy. I have no doubt in the creative powers at the majority of agencies, but do you want to leave the fate of the brand with people (who in great part due to their extraordinary creativity) are outliers? I believe in transformative innovation and how a single person can change the world, and I’m sure some creatives have done this and many will continue, but it should be grounded on insight.

My sense is that because of low budgets and the need for fast information, deep market understanding and strategic planning are being left aside. That’s not even gun slinging, it’s Russian roulette.

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