WHAT WE THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT.
people always went to the lowest bidder. I wonder this, because it seems that people are doing this more than they used to. Might just be nervousness over the economy. But we have experienced a lot of people saying, “we’d rather work with you, but we went with the lower price.” And we are dealing a lot more with current clients saying, “I want to do this initiative, but you’ll have to come down on the price.” Not sure what is going on.
Of course, when you’re talking about commodities, price is the issue. Why pay more for a pound of sugar than you have to? Is that what’s going on? Are people seeing advertising, and marketing communication as a commodity. It’s happened before.
Back in the 70s, when I was studying the art and science of advertising, they were just beginning to churn out MBAs in unprecedented numbers. They were deft at analysis, but not typically good at judgment. So, with the help of a PC on every desk, business began the process of reducing every issue to an arithmetic problem, with a correct answer that could be devised with the use of a spread sheet. Of course, the seventies gave us stagflation (I heard that terrifying term just this morning on NPR, for the first time since the Ford administration), leisure suits, hair mouse, disco, and some of the worst advertising in history.
Fortunately, by the mid-eighties, top businesses seemed to learn their lessons. We had the West Coast influenced creative revival—MacIntosh 1984 spot, Levi’s 501 blues, Bartles and Jaymes, and so on. During the boom, people paid not six figures, but seven figures for single commercials. And in some cases (MacIntosh) it paid off. That was an exciting time.
Then came the 1990s, “Xstreme” everything, and the Internet. The self-indulgent, art-school educated new generation of creatives began using client budgets to subsidize their own cool little films. We got advertising full of smart remarks and special effects—full of sound and fury signifying nothing…and not generating sales. Along with that came the 24/7 auction/bidding war that is the world wide web. The ubiquitous banner/button universe of ads, measured not in reach or frequency, nor in transactions or trial, but in “click through,” began the process of re-dumbing down advertising to the two lamest objectives in history:
• GET YOUR NAME OUT THERE
• MAKE AN OFFER THEY CAN’T REFUSE.
The confluence of the MBA quantitative mindset, the waste of budgets on self-indulgent creative, and the point-and-click mentality have taken the sophistication level of advertising strategy to about 1922 (Hey, Mrs. America, is your family satisfied that your dishes are clean when they sit down to dinner? Try Squeek™!). It is not the kind of advertising that history tells us will work over the long haul. But it is advertising that can be done fast…and cheap. Which brings us to the original musing…I wonder what would happen if people always went to the lowest bidder.
Have to tackle that next time. Sorry for the rant.