Dave Trott, “Advertising Isn’t Marketing Comms.”

Dave Trott, August 5, 2017

One of the main problems with our business is language.People like to use long complicated words to describe simple things. This makes their job sound more impressive. Consequently, advertising isn’t called advertising anymore. Now it’s called ‘marketing comms’. Comms is short for communications.

Abbreviating words also sounds impressive because it suggests familiarity with the complicated process.
Plus it suggests we’re too busy to say the whole word. So marketing people like to refer to advertising as “marketing comms”. But the problem with this is it suggests that advertising is a sub-set of marketing.
One of the many items in a marketing person’s portfolio. So once the marketing person has handled pricing and distribution and everything else, they can finally turn their attention to marketing comms. Having taken decisions on everything else, they will decide what’s to be done about that.
The problem with this is that it makes the marketing person the de-facto creative director.
Because they are now in charge of all decisions. And “marketing comms” suggests that the job is to simply deliver the marketing brief.
This is a recipe for a huge amount of wasted money.
For instance, in the UK £20.3 billion is spent each year on all forms of advertising and marketing.
Of this 4% is remembered positively.
7% is remembered negatively.
And a massive 89% isn’t even noticed or remembered.
That’s roughly £18 billion wasted because it’s invisible.
It’s invisible because it’s treated as marketing comms, a sub-set of marketing.
And because every marketing person thinks like that, all “marketing comms” look the same.
Which means £18 billion of invisible wallpaper.
And the advertising budget may as well be flushed down the loo.
Because advertising isn’t marketing.
I think I need to drive that point home: advertising ISN’T marketing.

Advertising is THE VOICE of marketing.

When marketing has decided what needs to be said they should give it to someone who specializes in getting heard.
Have you ever heard of Bernie Taupin?
Probably not.
But you’ve probably bought a lot of his records.
He’s the person who wrote all of Elton John’s greatest hits.
He didn’t sing them.

Because he knew that if he did they wouldn’t get heard. So he wrote the songs and gave them to someone who was a specialist in getting heard: Elton John.
And he didn’t tell Elton John how to play the piano or how to sing.
He wrote great songs (marketing plans) and gave them to a great singer (advertising agency).

Which is exactly what the very best marketing people do.
Write great marketing plans, then look for someone who can cut through the media blizzard.

Someone who can get heard over the £20.3 billion of competing for noise.
Someone who is trained in moving the communication out of the 89%, that doesn’t get seen or noticed,  into the 4% that gets remembered positively.
Or perhaps even the 7% that gets remembered negatively. At least it gets remembered, so it at least stands a chance of working.
We all know annoying ads that work just because they keep the brand top of mind.

Bad marketing people think the job of advertising is to be liked.
That isn’t true.
The main job of advertising is to be NOTICED.

Because nothing can happen if the ads aren’t noticed.
Which is exactly where £18 billion of marketing budgets disappear every year.
As Bill Bernbach said, “If no one notices your advertising, everything else is academic.”
That’s why it’s a job for communications professionals, not marketing professionals.
Robert Townsend was the CEO who moved Avis from nowhere to number two in rental cars. He did this by giving the account to Doyle Dane Bernbach. He wrote a terms-of-agreement letter to the agency, which began as follows:
“Doyle Dane Bernbach will never know as much about the rental car business as Avis does.
And Avis will never know as much about advertising as Doyle Dane Bernbach does.”
He was saying that Avis will decide WHAT to communicate, Doyle Dane Bernbach will decide HOW to communicate it.

With that letter began one of the most successful client-agency partnerships in advertising history. Robert Townsend was saying we don’t expect the agency to write our marketing plan, and we don’t expect to write the advertising.

Advertising you’ll notice, not marketing comms. There’s an old expression “You don’t buy a dog and bark yourself.”

But we’ve decided that barking is, in fact, marketing comms.

So that’s exactly what marketing people do. Buy a dog and bark themselves.

And bad advertising agencies are happy to let them do this: just sit back and do whatever the client wants.

They’ve given up trying and they’re just taking the money.
And yet clients keep picking agencies according to how much the agency agrees with them. How much, in fact, the agency will do what the client wants. And the client isn’t paying for a great job. The client is paying simply to have their way.

They confuse subservience with collaboration. Would you do that with any other professional?
Suppose you went to see a doctor with a pain in your leg. The doctor says “My diagnosis is you have a broken leg.”
You say “I’d like to see some alternatives.”
The doctor says “Well I could prescribe for a headache.”
You say “Hmmmm, anything else?’
The doctor says “How about an upset stomach?
You say “I’m not sure, what else have you got?”
The doctor says “How about a sprained wrist?”
You say “A sprained wrist sounds good: prescribe me something for a sprained wrist.”
And you leave the doctor’s office limping on a broken leg. Would that be a good doctor?
And yet that’s exactly how most marketing people choose their advertising.
Because they believe that marketing comms is a sub-set of marketing.
So they believe the agency must do what they say. And the client is paying money for expert advice and ignoring it.
Because advertising isn’t marketing.

Dave Trott, and author and creative director, has written 3 books on creativity: ‘Creative Mischief’, ‘Predatory Thinking’ and ‘1+1=3’. He is a columnist for Melt Magazine. Every month we publish the Melt Magazine, which takes a deeper, more analytical look at the industry of marketing and media in India, including features contributed by experts in the field. To subscribe to Melt Magazine or to buy any of our older issues, email [email protected].