A Sliver of Social Media, An Entire Helping of TV

Alan Wolk sees a new dawn for branded communications when he speaks of “The Great Unleveling”.

…for the past fifty years, brands have been able to rely on marketing to “create a splash” for low-interest products and services. So that a clever TV spot with a catchy tag line really could have significant impact on brand awareness for the general public. That’s because that TV spot was competing for your attention with other 30 second TV spots (as opposed to other brands.) So that even if you were playing in a low-interest category, you could still work your way into the national psyche.
For better or worse, that’s no longer the case. Brands in less alluring categories are never going to achieve the same levels of interest and awareness as their more compelling cousins.

American Copywriter responds with:

Low-interest products have to do extra interesting things. While blenders aren’t exactly as commoditized as rubber bands, there’s a lesson in Will It Blend?

Of course, TV advertising is a bigger business now than it ever was in the past. Which is a good reminder that social media is happening concurrent to all the other shifts in media.
I agree with Alan that social media (and the Web) is a very different beast than TV, and clients must get their head around it. But it’s still small change in the overall scheme and there are some clients and many in the agency business who want nothing to do with it. They like making TV spots and if they can help it, they’ll resist downgrading TV’s importance, because their personal importance (and massive income) is tied to TV’s importance.
So, in my view, “The Great Unleveling” is a possible future event, but today social media is but a thread unwound from a massive and totally intact ball.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Thanks for the link love David.
    I agree with you, that many brands/agencies still cling to the traditional model.
    But the thing about social media (as I often tell my own clients) is that it happens whether you want it to or not.
    In other words, people are talking about your brand online whether you do anything to enable it or not. And in that sense, the more high interest your brand is, the more people are going to be talking about it, to the point where you are likely ignoring that conversation at your own risk.
    “Not ignoring it” can be as basic as just reading and listening, e.g. using social media as a research tool. It doesn’t have to mean “build another Facebook app.”
    As I told the always-astute Mr. January in a follow up, the suggestion he gives will result in short term interest spurts, but in reality there’s only so much interest we can have in things like blenders, no matter how clever the “Blend-It” videos are.

  2. ” . . . they’ll resist downgrading TV’s importance, because their personal importance (and massive income) is tied to TV’s importance.”
    Kudos. Your perception is getting clearer, David. And imho, when the agencies decide that “social media/marketing” and emerging trends like Internet video are what will truly butter their bread, they’ll tear it all away from the independent professionals. In fact, we’ll probably see the independent social media experts migrating back to the agencies and research firms from whence they came.

  3. Alan and I agree on this. There is no sustained wide-spread interest in rubber bands or blenders. And, as such, some social media tactics are wasted effort. My only point is that I don’t think “Will it Blend” is short term if Blentec can land it on page 1 of Google for the search term “blenders.” That’s interesting content available on demand for those that ARE in the market for a blender today. And that’s good for business.

  4. Thanks Tom.
    Agencies might want to tear social media away from indie consultants and other micro-providers someday, but first they’ll need to learn how to operate in this environment. And they’ll need to find a way to make money providing these services. Perhaps, the social media experts will teach them. The other option is to grow the practice from within. It’s not hard to learn, but it does take time and a great deal of perseverance.

  5. @Tom: Not sure your assessment of the current state of things is correct.
    Most “internet video” is in fact done by ad agencies and not always their digital arms either. Not any independent professionals.
    Ditto other social media efforts: right now the question seems to be whether these fall under the purview of marketing or PR. Many of the larger PR firms are quite active in pushing social media efforts for their clients. Just as digital ad agencies are busy building iPhone apps and the like.
    What work do you see the “independent professionals” doing? I ask you as someone who works as an “independent professional” but whose work comes primarily through agency contacts and connections.

  6. Hi Alan,
    Perhaps I’m confused. Aren’t most of these folks Independent Professionals/small business owners:
    Shel Holtz, C.C. Chapman, Jennifer Jones, Joseph Jaffe, Peter Kim, Francois Gossieaux, JD Lasica, B.L. Ochman, et al.

  7. You’re only partly confused Tom.
    Most on your list aren’t doing the work you accuse them of: they’re filling in for planners, if anything, doing strategy decks. They’re not shooting online videos.
    Jaffe and Chapman have small agencies that do a lot of project work around social media promotions. But old-school creative boutiques have been doing TV and print promotions as project work for years. That’s how they get started.

  8. Fair enough Alan. But when I said they’ll “tear it away,” I meant they’ll become the gatekeepers/decision makers. Of course, great freelancers will always exist.