Making Marketing with Meaning – Agency Strategist Bob Gilbreath speaks out on Radio – Pa

Bob Gilbreath is the author of a new book called The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connect with Your Customers by Marketing with Meaning

Proctor & Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser, Gilbreath is also chief marketing strategist at Bridge Worldwide, one of the nation’s largest digital ad agencies and part of WPP.

Click below for my full Q&A with Gilbreath.  What follows is a highly edited transcript of our conversation. Part 1 runs today, part 2 tomorrow.


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Bob, you’re not simply a marketing guru, you’re not simply a guy from a digital agency, you’re someone who has actually been in the trenches trying to market brands to real flesh and blood people for years.

Yeah, I got to do some of the early work in digital marketing at P&G and enjoyed that, but I saw a lot of my peers and my management didn’t get it and couldn’t really figure it out. We were looking at banner ads and basic emails and websites and they weren’t cutting it. We were all looking for something more and something different. 

I have spent about 10 years now figuring out where marketing is going and how to elevate it beyond just putting a message in front of someone’s face, and I think that’s really what this book is: A guide for the traditional marketers who are trying to figure out where the world is going and meet it head-on in tactics and in overall marketing strategy. 

I think one of the things we should discuss is how your guide to marketers can also be a guide to media partners of marketers (like radio) who, ideally, should be in the same game as their marketing clients, correct?

I hope so. Yes. 

One of the quotes that you have in your book that I found particularly amusing was “If baseball were measured like advertising, you would only count the pitches.” 


Unfortunately, that can be several steps away from growing sales or not. 

Well, let’s talk about that, because ultimately what’s of interest to the marketers is growing sales or revenue or whatever the metric happens to be. But clients do have metrics, and those metrics aren’t necessarily eyeballs and ears, right? 

Right. It’s sad, the many ways the media and marketing business has been dumbed down over the years to try to get to that lowest common denominator: Something we can measure across all media – impressions. 

Being in front of someone’s eyes or ears has dumbed down a lot of our business, and I think for media companies it has led the advertising into price wars, where buyers bid down GRP’s to whomever can give it to them the cheapest. 

This really ignores the chance that the media companies can partner with marketers to add more value and get higher sales. 

I think one of the great strengths of radio is that as a result of its tremendous reach, as a result of its universal availability and usage, an awful lot of people come to the party and consume that content, thus giving us the ability to connect these folks with marketers in some creative and meaningful ways, and not simply through traditional spot buys. Would you agree with that? 

Yes. Exactly. One of the things that we’ve been trying to do with our clients who are more forward-thinking is to discourage them from getting their media agency to contact dozens of different media companies and get the lowest possible price. 

Instead, we encourage them to concentrate the dollars and find a media partner that can be more creative, that can add more value and bring something else to the marketing you’re trying to do. 

One of my favorite examples was a program we did with the Healthy Choice brand. We came up with an idea to launch a new line of products for them, great-tasting, ready-to-eat meals. So we created some lunchtime entertainment – live improv videos during lunch when people at offices who are eating these meals actually look for entertainment online. Now instead of doing that program and finding lots of different places where we could get banner ads, we actually partnered with MSN and spent the bulk of our dollars with MSN. 

We said, “hey, what else can you guys bring to the table to make this a better program?” They brought in different content from their network on MSN. They were able to help us with the cost of staging the videos, which can really add up and has big bursts of activity during lunchtime. Those are all things that help us save money and be more effective by pooling those dollars in a great place. Best of all, we ended up blowing away our numbers. 

The trend is away from marketing as “impressions” and towards “marketing with meaning.” Can you explain what “marketing with meaning” is? 

Sure. I’m saying that we’re entering a world where the interruptive model of advertising no longer works, where people are either ignoring the messages – the 3000 ads they get every day – or using technology like DVR’s or even satellite radio to actively skip advertising. 

In this world, you can’t force more and more impressions. What you’ve got to do is turn your marketing into something that people choose to engage with or advertising that itself adds value to people’s lives

For example, in that Healthy Choice program we did research that said 60% of office workers whom we were targeting with our launch regularly eat lunch at their desks, and when they sit down at lunch, they often are surfing the Internet and they’re not doing work or work emails; they’re taking a break to do fun surfing. So they’ll go to Facebook, they’ll see some viral videos, and that’s where we found some opportunity to create entertainment for them at their desks with these Healthy Choice improv programs. 

We actually give them chances to choose what would happen next in the programs. So, even through the entertainment itself, they were making choices and, of course, seeing the lunch being eaten and seeing people have a lot of fun with the meal at the same time. 

And the last chapter of that story is that it led to increased sales for Healthy Choice, right? 

Right. 

This gets to the importance of having a metric that is different from “impressions” or whatever other kind of interruptive metric you might have. 

Right. In this case, we could have put television ads out showing fake scenes of improv theater, but here we’re inviting people to come in and experience this entertainment. MSN helped us drive some awareness, but it was really up to the people on the network to choose to go watch the videos. 

Right now we actually have more than 5000 people logged on to see the videos that we have. They’re not even live anymore! The program ended over a year ago, but people still keep coming back! And that’s another benefit of this great entertainment content that you produce: It can last for quite a while.

Interruptive advertising doesn’t work as well as it used to. But you’re not saying that it doesn’t work at all, right?

Not necessarily. But you’ve got to offer something of value. 

For example, on television infomercials are some of the least skipped ads because the advertising itself adds value. It’s interesting. It’s new. People do want to see what’s out there. They do want to be entertained. They do want to be informed. But you’ve got to have something really compelling. 

So some of that more traditional media can still work but it’s got to work a heck of a lot harder and get through the filters consumers place over their eyes and ears. 

So are you saying that if I repeat my 800-number five times in the course of a 60-second spot, that’s not meaningful enough? 😉

No, but doing things like “Will it Blend” for Blendtec Blenders, their viral program that shows people blending up 2 x 4s and iPods to show the power of the blender, that kind of stuff works. 

Because it relates to the benefit of the actual device, right? 

And, frankly, it’s interesting and different and not just another carrot thrown in there.

[Part 2 of my conversation with Bob Gilbreath comes tomorrow.  In it, Bob spells out exactly what radio broadcasters should do to provide more meaningful marketing that benefits both clients and listeners]

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