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March, 2007

No More Campaigns

I've had Google on the mind quite a bit lately. I think I've mentioned it in the past, but a few months ago I was lucky enough to hear them speak at the 360i conference. The person who presented (whose name I can't remember and don't have written down . . . David?) spoke of the end of campaigns. From Google's perspective, campaigns are silly: You should have all your assets running all the time.

In another era, you ran a campaign around a specific time (say Christmas), but in Google's world, where you only pay for clicks (aka leads), it's silly to think that way. A lead in March is worth the same as a lead in December, so why aren't you running your ads all year long?

What's more, since you're not paying for impressions, there's no reason not to embrace an endless number of messages (minus cost of producing them, of course). Whereas when you're running a television commercial you need to chose the one message that will resonate best with your one target, on Google you can use all those other messages that hit the cutting room floor.

Selling a TV that has great picture? That's probably what the commercial is going to say. But on Google you can talk about the HDMI inputs, the SD card slot and the fact that the box is recyclable. If there's one person who is interested in the recyclable bit and they happen to search for it, why not be prepared for them? You're only going to pay if they click anyway. It's yet another long tail story.

Speaking of the long tail, Mohammed Iqbal wrote a very interesting piece that hit on some of these points called The Elongating Tail of Brand Communication. In discussing the way the marketing industry has been ruled by the same rules as retail, Iqbal writes:

In creating and peddling our wares we [marketers] also use the very same devices and tricks that the media and entertainment industry have perfected in the last century.

We use pre-filtering as mechanism to predict and deice what will have mass appeal. We choose between alternatives -- only allowing 'one' brand idea at a time to make it [to] the expensive 'shelf space'. We pull off air any 'brand idea' that doesn't connect with all of our identified consumers -- even if it has its own small niche of buyers.

Whether we realize it or not, we have been dancing forever to the tunes of shelf-space scarcity and distribution bottlenecks. While all the while believing self-righteously that the single-minded brand proposition is the only right way to build a brand in any situation. Even in current times of abundance -- abundant shelf space (for brand ideas), abundant distribution (in media channels and bandwidth) and abundant choice (of brand propositions tailor-made for each of your niche audiences.)

When you play this out, you start to get a world where a singular brand proposition is no longer the best approach. This is part of what Faris and Jason we're talking about when they wrote of transmedia planning. As I see it, because people now have the ability to search out their own media there is more room for multiple messages and ideas.

The website of the future may not be a flash-filled affair that broadcasts the brands position to its customers, but might instead be a search box with mountains of content sitting behind it that allows people to find the thing within the brand that resonates most with them. It's idiocentricity at its finest.

Google's new pay-per-action product takes this a step further. Pay-per-click made it easier to spend your money more efficiently by allowing you to target people during specific times within the purchase cycle, but there were still inefficiencies. You were still paying for luke-warm leads. Pay-per-action (PPA) changes that, in a world where you only pay when someone purchases something or fills out a form, what excuse do you have for not constantly running all your assets?

Now of course there are some major holes in this thinking around how it integrates with the rest of the media world, but there's no denying that it's going to change the way people think about a lot of things.

Would love to hear thoughts on how to take this farther, holes in the thinking, how it integrates with other media or why it's just plain silly.

March 22, 2007
Noah Brier | Thanks for reading. | Don't fake the funk on a nasty dunk.