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Our Customers: Eyeballs who View Ad Inventory or Valued Partners?

OK, I’m not sure if this is an "old school" vs "new school" thing.  But two things jumped out at me from today’s "Media in Canada" newsletter (a newsletter I both enjoy and am frustrated by on a regular basis).
First, Mike Welling, President of doug agency, wrote a letter to the editor of MiC, praising the Grand Prix win of "Evolution" from Dove.  The campaign was certainly amazing, and Welling credits forward thinking leadership inside Unilever for getting that great creative launched.  Now, I agree, the creative behind "Evolution" is wonderful, but there is no mention of the vital, essential role that social media played in it.  If YouTube weren’t around; if fans weren’t able to blog it, would "Evolution" have been so successful?

Second, in the same issue of MiC, was the following ad (you’ll need to click on it to see it in its full size; the link to the landing page is below):


Landing Page for Ad

Clicking on it takes you to a video of a woman shopping for customers.  Though if you follow Astral’s language, they’re not really "customers" but "items" to flash your ads at.
I admit it, when I saw this ad, it made me a little sick to my stomach.  It goes against everything that New Media, Social Media, Word of Mouth all stand for.  That we can partner with our customers, not harass them.  We can co-create with them.  We deliver something of value – they will spread the word. 

This is the point that Welling fails to acknowledge as well.  Yes, creative leadership is important, but it isn’t just about the creative.
I’m concerned that there is a divide happening in our industry: that some marketers simply view people as consumers, someone who, if we shout at large numbers of the "right ones" loud enough, they’ll purchase our stuff; and some marketers who are interested in creating something valuable and telling key influencers about it. 

You, of course, know on which side of the chasm I place myself.  I believe we have a symbiotic relationship with our customers … they are increasingly their own media, their own content, their own network, and they largely determine the success of campaigns like "Evolution".  We cannot forget their role and we certainly shouldn’t minimize it.

How do you view your business’s relationship with your customers?  Are you marketing "at" them or "with" them?  Do you see a yawning chasm?


  1. Jason Verwey
    Jason Verwey June 27, 2007

    Good rant Kate. Like you, I am often frustrated by the mostly enjoyable MIC newsletter. I find at times it turns into a whole lot of industry back patting then real media critic and discussion… “Check it out… We managed to trick them into buying our product again without having to change our dinosaur marketing tactics… yeah us!”
    I’m starting to come to the conclusion that the “old school” will never be converted. I fear that the only way for big brands in established markets to survive is to clean house and unfortunately it is the top level execs that need the cleaning. This puts us in a particular hard place… I wish I knew where to go from here…

  2. Natasha
    Natasha June 28, 2007

    “I wish I knew where to go from here…”
    Just wait. Dinosaurs don’t live forever.
    More to the point, thinking about a similar issue this morning (“Why Folks ‘My Age’ Don’t Get YouTube”) lead me to realize that conforming to the new New Media is a much more fruitful enterprise than resisting it.
    You may not “get it” but you sure should be involved.

  3. Michael Garrity
    Michael Garrity June 29, 2007

    Interesting that you make the distinction on nomenclature from “consumers” to “customers”. Every once in a while I catch myself falling back into old habits and using the word “consumers” even though I really mean “customers” or “potential customers”.
    If there was a 12 step group for marketers it should begin with the acknowledgment that the people on the other end of our products and services should not be defined by their propensity to buy things from us or the companies we represent but rather by a set of needs that we feel we can help them to address.

  4. Sean Howard
    Sean Howard July 3, 2007

    Great comments.
    Such a sad state.
    I love Michael’s idea of a 12 step program.
    “Hi. My name is sean and I used to be a traditional marketer…” 😉

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