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where are we headed?
Is there a suprising future ahead for marketers and advertisers? Will there be new ways for them to grab the attention of consumers? Offering their thoughts here are Bob Garfield, columnist for Advertising Age; Frank Luntz, corporate and political consultant; Mark Crispin Miller, media critic; and Kevin Roberts, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide. These excerpts are drawn from their extended FRONTLINE interviews.

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Kevin garfield
Columnist for Advertising Age.

…Are market researchers really getting inside our minds?

There are two things happening at once. There is more and more granular information -- demographically, ethnographically, psychographically -- about consumers that is available now. There's just many, many more ways to slice the bread than there were before.

So you can figure out people's preferences, their needs, their desires, their values, and you can organize your media buy based on everything from people's ZIP code to their age to what they read to their usage of cellophane-wrapped beef stick products. And so the information is all there, and it's sliced and diced in more ways than ever before. I don't know if it's good or if it's bad, but the information is there. So if that is the path for "the man" to get inside of your head and manipulate you, and if that's bad, OK, it's there.

The other side of it is that these aren't being used very much. The fact is that even sophisticated marketers are saving money by not doing any kind of real sophisticated research and are instead making decisions based on what they regard as research: some focus groups here and there, where they get what they believe is "data" but isn't data at all -- it may as well be overheard conversation in the beauty parlor -- and they're acting on it. So it's kind of a paradox. There are more ways to get inside the consumer's head than ever before, and because it's so expensive to do that, advertisers are substantially relying on data that are absolutely meaningless.

What drives them to pursue this data about consumers?

Think about what marketing is. Marketing, if you've got any sense at all, is not about coming up with a product or service and then just trying to figure out a way to sell it. Marketing is about figuring out what people need or want or believe they need and want (which I actually believe are synonymous), and then creating the product to suit that need or desire and then selling it. To let the horse pull the cart instead of vice versa. If you want to know what to make and how much of it and how to sell it, you really have to ask the question: What do people need and desire? And there's nothing sinister about that.

I know there is a body of thought that believes that the marketing world is out there foisting off unneeded, unnecessary products on people who are persuaded that they need them. Well, the truth is that's not how it works. The marketing world is people who make a living by figuring out what people want or think they want, and then they make it for them, and then they sell it to them. Do they sell fear? Do they sell insecurity? Do they sell stuff that you don't think you need or that anyone needs but someone out there thinks they need? The answer to all those questions is yes, but fundamentally, the world of marketing is about fulfilling people's perceived needs and desires. And they've come up with a whole lot of really good stuff with which to do that. …

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Frank luntz
A corporate and political consultant.

…What new directions do you see for market research like yours?

Part of market research, and the understanding of language, that has not been exploited sufficiently is actually in the courtroom. There are jury consultants and there are message consultants for trials, but not to the degree that it's been applied to politics and the corporate world.

This is where people are going next, and frankly, this is where I'm going next. There's a lot of money with a lot of big law firms that have a tremendous amount at stake by getting the right language to convince the right jury that my client is either innocent or that the opposition is guilty. …

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Mark Crispin miller
Media critic.

…we're moving away from advertising per se towards a more fundamental kind of pitch, which is what propaganda, generally speaking, always wants to do anyway. Advertising is just a commercial form of propaganda. What propaganda has always wanted to do is not simply to suffuse the atmosphere, but to become the atmosphere. It wants to become the air we breathe. It wants us not to be able to find a way outside of the world that it creates for us. …

…Now it seems we're moving into a programming universe where the advertisement is part of the show.

That's exactly right. If you don't look very carefully, if you kind of half-close your eyes, you might think that advertising is disappearing, because the fact is that traditional forms of advertising -- the minute-long spot; the 30-second spot; the split 30s, [which are] two 15-second ads, and so on; the magazine ad; the newspaper ad; the billboard -- it might seem that many of them are being phased out.

But they're not being phased out in favor of plain old civic space. They're being phased out in favor of a kind of advertising, a kind of propaganda, that's far more profound. It's far more deeply rooted. The aim here is not so much to find a show that people like and then get your ads on it. The aim here is for the advertisers to create a show that is itself an extended ad. In a curious way, we're moving back in time to the days when advertisers actually presented radio shows and TV shows. But this is far more sophisticated than that.

Formerly, when an advertiser would produce, say, a musical show, the music had to be paramount. The music had to be good; it had to be popular. That would then, presumably, make a difference to the advertisers. Commercials would benefit from the association with that nice music. Nowadays, when an advertiser envisions a show that's just right for his product, you don't really have content that's very easy to tell apart from a commercial for the product itself.

It's hard for many of us to remember, and impossible for the younger of us to know, that advertising was for decades always regarded as a bit of an intrusion, a nuisance, an interruption: "Don't go away; we'll be right back." And then they'd pitch something -- you know, Bufferin or Chevys or whatever. The same with ads in print media: You're going to have to skip over the pages of ads to get to the text.

Well, as long as ads struck people as interruptive, as long as they struck them as a kind of momentary detour away from the road you wanted to be taking, the story you wanted to be following, they were also strangely candid about what they were. They were commercials. That came with the territory. You had to listen to a commercial in order to hear the music on the radio. You had to sit through two or three commercials in order to keep watching the episode of The Fugitive you were watching or whatever it was, you see? Now that paradigm of the ad as an explicit interruption, as a departure from the thing you're watching, that whole paradigm is giving way to a kind of programming that's already like an ad itself. There's no need to interrupt it, because it's selling things all the time anyway. …

read the full interview

Kevin Roberts
CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide.

…Is there room for big ideas today?

I think it's the best opportunity of all right now, because everyone is totally immersed in communications. We are very fast response units. We don't need 30 seconds or 60 seconds to understand something now. We eliminate dross like that -- three seconds, boom, don't buy that, don't buy that, don't pay attention to this, poof. So where there is an idea, where there is an emotional connection, it shines through like a beacon.

Are people awake enough to be shocked by a big idea in advertising?

Not shocked. We don't want to shock them -- we want to embrace them; we want to love them; we want to lead them into it. We want to entertain them, to stimulate them, to bring them in mysteriously.

We see the world through our senses, and then the brain kicks in. That's how neurology works; they tell you that you first feel an experience. So great Lovemark advertising connects that way before the brain kicks in. Most brand managers want you to get the product up front, the claim up front, the benefit up front, the demonstration up front. And immediately consumers will say boof, that's a shampoo commercial, it's going to show shiny hair, I don't care, boom, I've gone.

Before I've made a conscious decision.

Absolutely. No question about it. It's what the French call a coup de foudre, a thunderbolt. It's like a love at first sight. You have that feeling: "Wow! I'm interested now." And then you can go back to the Net and you can find out as much information as you want.

It's going to happen in two places. First is television. There is a strong point of view out there that television is dead. Nothing could be further away from the truth. Television will be the most powerful medium for at least the next 20 years, in America and in the rest of the world. In America, first of all, everybody's got five. So everybody's got one -- every kid's got one; they've all got their own.

Secondly, everybody knows how to use one. Nobody I've met can use a TiVo. Everybody talks about it; nobody's got a clue how to use it. They can't even use their VCR. But everybody can use the TV. It's like turning a light on. And third, television is that one great medium that gives you fantastic visualization. Most marketing companies and brand groups thinks it's all in the copy and all in the writing. We don't get messages like that. We get them with our eyes primarily. We love visual media, and television is a fantastic visual [medium], and getting better and better. Once you've seen plasma, you will never go back to any other screen, because it's a fantastic thing.

The other reason why TV will be so dominant in advertising is that the growth of advertising will come from China, India, Mexico, Brazil and Russia. That's where the growth's going to be in the next decade. And all those are TV-dominated markets for the next 20 years. So the idea that the 30-second commercial or that TV's dead, I believe is completely fallacious.

The second most important medium, in my view, is the store. If you go into a Wal-Mart now, the average amount of time to shop in Wal-Mart [is] 19 minutes. Wal-Mart are totally, totally obsessed with "Let's make that 20 minutes, or 21 minutes," because that's where the business is going to be. And the only way you will do that is not through lower prices. The prices are already very low. Not through a bigger range. They're going to do it through having an experience in the store. You've got to make the store a theater of dreams. It's got to be full of mystery, full of sensuality and full of intimacy. Just like great advertising. Most companies, most agencies are nowhere in-store. They're still doing old-fashioned retail promotions and price-offs and bonus packs and on-packs and all this kind of stuff, frankly.

Then, over and above that, you have to get the Web site looking fantastic. You'll have more interactive TV opportunities. Radio is a big idea, I think, because you can really target a demographic. You have the paradox of this mass market and the market of one, and radio is very helpful. Magazines, again, very helpful for teenagers. Teenage girls trust their magazines more than they trust television or the store. Teenage boys, they're really interested in their rock magazines and their computer magazines, in the "big boys' toys" kind of stuff. Newspaper will play a role as well. So no one medium will ever replace another. So we're going to have to get used to and embrace and welcome media proliferation, but with TV and the store at the center for experiences. …


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posted nov. 9, 2004

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