…So says an advertisement from Adobe* that is running this week in major national media. The campaign is intended to make the case for marketing, especially via a digital platform, at a time when companies are straining to grow revenues in the face of price-conscious consumers strained by a difficult economy.
But there is a big problem to solve first. An Adobe study found that advertising, marketing and PR executives (11-13 percent) were the least highly regarded professionals among teachers (92 percent), scientists (88 percent), programmers (68 percent), social workers (61 percent), lawyers (34 percent), bankers (32 percent) and politicians (18 percent), but comparable to dancers (13 percent) and actors (13 percent). Sixty-eight percent of respondents find online ads annoying and distracting, while 53 percent said that marketing is a bunch of B.S. Only 31 percent of consumers enjoy reading and viewing ads, and by four to one, consumers prefer to see ads in a print magazine over a website. Even worse, a recent study by the Fournaise Marketing Group found that 70 percent of CEOs believe that marketers are too disconnected from business results.
Shantanu Narayen, the CEO of Adobe, noted, “We are working with clients such as Conde Nast and Meredith to re-imagine publishing. We are also working with retailers, helping them acquire customers and serve up customized offers on-line to drive purchase. We have to marry art and science, so that the consumer feels that brands are giving the experience he or she expects.”
Ann Lewnes, CMO of Adobe, said to me, “Marketing’s impact can now be measured. Creativity and data have to work together. There is in fact a different marketing cycle, in which social is the first touch, the highest source of leads, then search enables comparison shopping. The digital marketing paradigm makes us the most accountable of corporate officers because we can measure sales against expenditure very precisely.”
One note of caution is privacy. “The consumer must be in charge,” Narayen said. “They will decide what they are willing to share. They will determine what they want for free and what they willingly sacrifice in privacy in order to have a more personal experience.”
It is clear that the advertising business is moving toward addressable audiences and tangible results. The PR business will have to follow suit, in finding the new influential conversation starters and in discovering the powerful insights. PR can also help drive the new product discovery process by engaging with avid fans and, through meaningful two-way dialogue, discover what they are looking for in the next version of a product.
I have a sense that we will also have an opportunity to be counter-intuitive, to be the ones to bring the unexpected and unusual to the conversation. The process of discovery is diminished by micro-targeting in the pursuit of complete accountability. Those of us in PR can fill that hole, but we have to do it in a mode closer to advertising: highly visual, easily shareable, entertainment that informs. A GE Water Survey collateral in the form of a comic strip (right) fits the bill. It was created by GE Water & Process Technologies* to tell a visual story based on a survey they conducted about Americans’ awareness and acceptance of water reuse as a solution to growing water scarcity.
Richard Edelman is president and CEO
*Adobe and GE are clients of Edelman