Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Bob Garfield has an intriguing piece in the Oct. 10 AdAge about what he calls "Listenomics":
Advertising as we know it might not quite work anymore.

Now there’s a thought.

If the conversation is dominated by consumers themselves, and they’re paying scant attention to the self-interested blather of the marketer, who needs ads -- offline, online or otherwise? This raises the question of what agencies are left to do.

Maybe the answer is obvious: to manage, focus, exploit, maybe even co-opt the open conversation. The real question may be whether the agency world is culturally equipped for the task. (emphases mine)

Ben McConnell takes Garfield to task while Owen Mack offers an understanding defense.

I think Garfield means well and is seriously trying to understand the terra incognita of the new marketing world. However, even with his language he reveals that, deep down, he just doesn't get it.

"Consumers" are things (see units, widgets, etc.). "Customers" are people. When you can honestly call these people "clients" or "partners," that's even better. These seem like simple semantic differences, but they reveal what we really think about the folks that pay our salary.

Agencies should "exploit" and "co-opt" consumers' conversations? Yeah, good luck with that. I love when my phone is exploited by a dim-witted fishwrap saleswoman at dinner time. And I adore the fact I can't use my cable Internet email account because it's been co-opted by Viagra pitchmen and Hungarian exhibitionists.

Sure, "exploit" can be a neutral term, but it usually means (or is inferred to mean) that someone is cynically taking advantage of another. Instead of commandeering a discussion, how about engaging in your customers' conversations? How about listening more than you talk? Do you think a person might like that approach? Would you?

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Anonymous Angela said...

Some interesting points you have made in this piece. Surely consumers (or customers, as you call them) would rather have marketers" talk to," not "talk at," them. However, I think traditional marketing agencies are set up more for talking at people. Sure, they have focus groups and try to put themselves into a customer's shoes, but at the end of the day, they simply let fly with a finished print or radio or TV ad, or a press release, that goes out into the ether. There's no real give-and-take with the customer. Word-of-mouth marketing is where true interaction lies, where there is a possibility of talking to the customer. Until marketing agencies truly understand, embrace and practice word-of-mouth, the tendency, I feel, will be talking at the customer.

7:08 AM  
Blogger inkling said...

Excellent points, Angela. You should start a blog of your own! I agree that agencies usually consider conversation a one-way street: we talk, you shut up and listen. The agency that embraces customers as allies rather than targets will make a mint.

9:41 AM  

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