Wrong, Wrong, And Wrong Again

As an avid consumer of business journalism, I see way too many shortcomings in the stories I read.

Take this morning’s example, a piece in The Guardian about how the fictional Don Draper wouldn’t thrive in today’s multimedia universe.

For Matthew Neale, managing director of the global marketing company Golin Harris, the world where ad execs such as Draper and his team were the “exclusive arbiters of creativity and modernity is over”.

“Today’s consumers want a conversation with their brands and they are being their own art directors using media like YouTube,” Neale said. “That’s a big reason why the old model is failing. While this new way will never replace agencies, it shows how competitive things have become and for traditional ad agencies, that’s creating panic in the room.”

Mr. Neale, like so many in this business, is mouthing absurdities. There’s no panic surrounding a threat from consumer generated content. Yes, consumer generated content has a place at the table today, but in no way does it threaten the agency, or the creative people therein. CGC is one tool in a very large toolbox, and that’s all.

Neale also says consumers are their own art directors. Dude, please. Technology-rich consumers are far from their own art directors. You can place a chainsaw in a man’s hands, but that doesn’t make him a lumberjack. This whole line of thinking, which is fairly widespread, is embarrassing.

As for consumers wanting to have a conversation with brands, that too, is mostly hearsay. What consumers want to do is talk to each other. When brands facilitate interesting ways for consumers to do that, they win.

About David Burn

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.