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Monday, October 10, 2016

Conventional Wisdom Impedes Progress

Every industry in the world has sacred cows or what we usually describe as conventional beliefs. We often cling to them even though the world has changed and they often are no longer valid. One futurist whom I respect says many were never valid in the first place.

When we look at things we tend to carry baggage with us. Sometimes a great deal of baggage. The disruptors in many categories tend to be people from another industry who are not weighed down with conventional wisdom and perhaps see things more clearly.

For example, I love bookstores of all kinds. A relaxing hour to me is to browse through a bookshop in any large city. Sometimes used bookshops are even better as I find out of print gems that I have wanted for years. 

Jeff Bezos worked on Wall Street. He did not toil at Borders or Barnes & Noble. So, he thought that selling books and music online was worth a shot. He bet the ranch on it and it morphed in to a phenomenon that has changed the way most of us shop. People in the book industry did not take Amazon seriously until it was too late.

There is a young media strategist who writes to me frequently. Sometimes he has an idea and bounces it off me. Other times, he sends me the draft of a proposal that he is working on for a client. And, once in a while, he writes to inform me that he thinks that my latest blog post is way off base.

Last year, he sent me an early draft of a media plan that had his boss had rejected out of hand. Essentially, he wanted to pull out of a college football package that his client had purchased for many years. To sum up, he said that attentiveness levels had dropped and presented some information that showed channel hopping was rampant during commercial breaks on Saturday afternoons when several games were on simultaneously. He suggested that the package not be renewed and that the money be redeployed in a fistful of digital options.

His boss regaled him with the time honored commentary that there was a magic to an advertiser being in a sports property and that while the premium for such involvement was often steep, it was ALWAYS worth it. The young gentlemen stuck to his guns and was a pariah within his shop for a few weeks.

Then, the client, citing business difficulties, did not renew the football deal. My young friend was given half the money he usually had for football and reinvested it in some digital alternatives. Business perked up and he was soon back in the good graces of his management team.

Now, there are many factors that might have caused the client rebound. My point is that the conventional wisdom that the pricey sports package was essential to good allocation of the client’s funds was an accepted practice but it may no longer have been relevant in 2015.

So, examples like this strike me as wake-up call for media people and management at ad agencies. Keep in mind the thing that all disruption tends to have--it is pro-consumer. Decades ago, Wal-Mart offered everyday low pricing and one stop shopping, Amazon took it to your door, mobile apps seem to be changing everything.

Market destruction is a tough game. It will not recede. Remember, with creative destruction comes creativity. Strive to be part of it no matter what business you are in.

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

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