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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Denial In The Media World

Several years ago, I was scheduled to meet a friend at a local golf course. We got our signals crossed and he did not show up. The starter at the course paired me up with a threesome and I teed off 12 minutes after my appointed time. I was assigned to a golf car with a 77 year old gentlemen.

The fellow was pleasant and courteous but was having a terrible time. His tee shots barely dribbled down the fairway. After three holes he told me that maybe he should quit the game after 60 years of enjoyment. I looked down and saw the ball that he was playing. It was a top of the line Titleist and was the same that was used by touring pros.

When we arrived at tee box #4, I asked my new friend to humor me. “Try teeing off with the ball that I am using.” He was gracious and agreed but was a big grudging about it. His ball rocketed down the fairway, straight as a string, about 170 yards. He told me the ball must be illegal. I smiled and told him that it was designed for senior players with a much slower swing speed than the top 100 players in the world. After the round, I had a new best friend and gave him a dozen of the senior friendly balls out of the trunk of my car. He waxed poetic and said that I had given not just his golf game but his whole existence a new lease on life.

The aging golfer was a good man. Yet, he was in denial. He was not 30 anymore. In order to stay in the game, he needed to adapt to the current conditions--his aging body. I am finding the same thing true with the attitudes of many people in the communications business.

My last blog post in Media Realism (MR) was entitled “The Internet of Things and Marketing.” I received an inordinate amount of mail on it. A few wrote that they liked it and agreed, a plurality said that they had never thought about it but would, and a few were furious.

One fellow told me the following (obscenities deleted so I had to add a few words to put together a coherent sentence): “Cole, you are an idiot and you have always been an idiot. For 35 years, you have talked about the future of media and here I am still standing and making a living in this business. I will never read your stupid MR blog again.”

This guy and many others told me in the early ’80’s that cable TV would NEVER emerge as viable advertising medium. Fast forward to the late ’90’s and they said the same thing about the Internet. Over the last few years this same character and fellow travelers said social media was a fad that would soon implode and mobile advertising will never catch on with the public.

Okay. To be fair, no salesperson who makes his or her living from a conventional medium is going to say to a prospect that his station or publication is toast. And, the angry man described above has made a decent living in broadcast sales for decades and will likely make it to retirement. At the same time, he and many others need to face reality.

A TV station general manager put it to me this way-- “Sometimes, I meet with a young media executive at an agency who tells me it is game over for guys like me. Well, it is not. We are now doing well due to strong auto advertising this year plus we should benefit from a hotly contested US Senate race this fall. At the same time, we are taking advertisers and pleased to get them that we would never have considered 15 years ago. Our profit margins are still good compared to most industries but half of what they were in the mid-1990’s. We are not finished but will likely morph in to something else several years from now. I like your idea of local TV becoming more of a direct response medium with many multi-platform interactions.” That guy GETS it. He still drops off the gold in NYC but is changing his approaches and attitudes as media usage evolves.

The great Bill Bernbach of Doyle Dane Bernbach once said back in the ’70’s that “when you are through changing, you are through.”  That sums it up for me.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

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