Concepts. Marker comps. Internal creative reviews…
Do any of these time-honored practices ring a bell?
Once upon a time, art directors and copywriters spent days, even weeks, tossing ideas around, or batting them back and forth as the case may be. It may have looked as if they were playing Foosball and lounging on couches all day, and technically they were doing that, but by doing that they managed to unloose a few gems, also known as wild ideas with the power to change a brand’s trajectory.
Then digital happened and the shiny object makers put everyone in a trance. Thankfully, there are people in the business today who long for the sanity of big-picture thinking. According to his tweets, Gari Cruze, a copywriter at Huge, is one of them.
I have a gut feeling that even in the agency world, a startling % of marketers don’t understand the difference between short-term activation and long-term branding. I think there’s a belief that direct marketing via ad tech is simply the new way to do marketing as a whole. Scary.
Direct marketing via ad tech. That’s where we are today, and this is a large part of the problem (for clients and their agency partners).
Fundamentally, screens are intermediaries. Unless all your company’s transactions occur online, your customers will need to put their screens down in order to buy from you.
Tradigitalists to the Rescue
There is a group of ad people who are uniquely qualified to help build the bridge back to solid ground. Some of them are presidents of fancy NYC ad agencies. Some are kicking ass and taking names from the lonely confines of their home offices. Some have left the ad business altogether. All of them grew up before the Internet. Many of them grew up before cable TV. Many of them are also under-employed, which is a waste of precious human resources.
If you’re over 40 and looking for a job in the agency business, you already know how the odds are stacked against you. You live it every day as the rejections mount and the silence deafens. Meanwhile, the advertising parade marches on.
For years, ad people have feared not knowing enough about digital marketing and appearing clueless or over-the-hill in meetings. The reality is not nearly enough people in the room know a damn thing about how brands are built. They’re not built on Insta, even though Insta matters and for certain microbrands, Insta matters a ton.
A tradigital ad person understands this because she exists in two worlds. She is, by definition, over 40. In the ad business, age has historically been a disqualifier. This has to change now. Age combined with experience is the qualifier that companies need to seek and attract, especially companies reeling from the impacts of digital disruption.
The Gen X Factor
For ad people over 40, the deck is not stacked in their favor, but the deck is also polluted by Jokers. To play a winning hand, it takes the kind of extreme confidence that melts away any lingering chips on the shoulder.
Joseph Curtis, a VP of enterprise sales at Salesforce, writing in Harvard Business Review, makes a great point about owning your expertise — something that all experts, especially experts over 40, want to do and do well.
Sales is less about selling and more about leading, which requires high levels of confidence, which in turn requires knowledge and experience. This concept can be expressed mathematically as Knowledge + Experience = Confidence to Lead. You can control the first part of the equation; the second comes with time. Gaining industry knowledge and a strong point of view about the products they’re selling should be the top priority for any aspiring salesperson.
He’s talking about one-to-one selling of B2B software, but we can apply what he’s saying to marketing communications and an agency’s role in steering clients to better solutions. Buyers want quality and that means they’re looking for the expert — the one with a “strong point of view about the products they’re selling.” A strong POV about what they’re not selling is also important. You can fill digital sales funnels until the cows come home, but that’s never enough. To get sales and marketing on the same page, and convince the members of the C-Suite that the long play to build brand value is a priority…that’s the unmet need that Gen Xers are prepared to solve.