Is Advertising “Failure”?

Tom Asacker pointed me to this article by media pundit and F.O.H.S. (Friend of Howard Stern) Jeff Jarvis, where he made this alarming yet refreshing point:

If you are selling a scarcity — an inventory — of any nonphysical goods today, stop, turn around, and start selling value — outcomes — instead. Or you’re screwed.

Wait a minute…

Commercial inventory…isn't that…yes, it is.

But that's not all.

Scarcity is also music variety that you can hear in your car only thanks to the radio.  Those days are ending fast.

Scarcity is also where you get the latest news and traffic and weather from.  That used to be on the radio, too.  And those days are soon to end.

"Start selling value – outcomes," says Jarvis.

The merchant doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your limited supply of space and eyeballs; the merchant cares about sales and return on investment.

But wait, you may say.  Our agency friends don't buy "outcomes," they buy "inputs."  They buy the eyes and ears – in bulk.  Anyone who has paid attention to the turmoil swirling through agencies nowadays knows that the money available to these folks is diminishing, not increasing.  And likewise diminishing is their influence in what's left of their agencies.

This is why metrics like Arbitron's – diary or PPM – will hold less power over your future than the suits in Laurel would like to admit.  And it's why the heat is on for you to replace that lost revenue – and lost capacity to generate revenue – with value that achieves the outcomes of your agency's client, whatever they may be.

Jarvis goes on:

First, you have to align your interest with marketers if you have any hope of still helping them, still adding and then recognizing value. Marketers will, as Bob Garfield so forcefully states in The Chaos Scenario, build their own, direct relationships around media, without advertising. Or as I’ve been obnoxiously stating it, advertising is failure — it’s what you do when you don’t have a valued relationship. Relationships. That’s what the business of media must become.

Relationships.

Not the touchy-feely kind you bribe with free tickets or a backstage pass.

But the kind that gives you permission to connect consumers who trust you and want stuff with the marketers who trust you and make stuff, no matter where or how you connect them – increasingly OFF the air.

The "loudspeaker" of radio gives you a big head start.

But only if you recognize that the race is long – and the finish line is not denominated in 60-, 30-, or 10-second spots.

Jarvis again:

We must also align our interests with those of the community, with the people formerly known as the audience, helping them do what they want to do, adding value and recognizing it that way. We need to make ourselves their platform.

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