Changing Marketing's Old Guard

Before becoming an agent for Fame Foundry, I invested more than 20 years working for several advertising agencies. I learned, peddled and practiced everything from marketing plans to package design. Like most career admen, I know all about media buying, creative briefs, radio and TV production, graphic design and creative writing. But there's at least one thing I've learned that makes me significantly different from marketing's old guard; I've learned to accept the fact that the Web has replaced all other forms of media.

Even now, marketing firms and advertisers alike seem comfortable with the status quo. This is fine as long as their customers continue to make buying decisions based on reading brochures or seeing ads in newspapers or on television. It's amazing to me that with all the options available, some businesses prefer to pay over $1,500 for one newspaper ad or even $500,000 for a TV spot.

Though there are still clients who don't mind paying through the nose for marketing tactics that do little to improve their bottom line, the smarter population recognizes that the Web is the most efficient method to market its products and services. And while marketing firms continue to preach about how web development is just another tool in their tool chest or how social media is just media, other firms study feverishly to understand the medium. This may seem like progress but many of these firms that struggle to understand the Web will never get past the passe concept of banner ads if their counsel is coming from industry publications like Advertising Age.

Sources like these (and many of the nation's most recognizable agencies) try to understand the Web within the context of the industry's milieus of the past 50 years. These advisors feel threatened and resent the fact that now anyone can produce a video or publish a magazine. Yet because they hear social media is hot right now, these publications do their best to educate their subscribers. Marketing firms are drinking in as much of this swill as they can so they can appear knowledgeable to prospective clients. Despite what they've read or how many webinars they attend, they're only able to glean a rudimentary understanding of the Web, while hoping to make a quick buck off it before anyone notices.

Complacency in their ability to sell smoke-and-mirrors tactics and resentment of the Digital Age are the reasons the old guard doesn't make an effort to understand the true nature of the Web. It's also why traditional firms are losing bids to nimble, forward-thinking shops. If marketing firms are to survive in today's economy, they must stop pontificating about the glory days of advertising and begin selling the Web as their clients' primary rainmaker. It doesn't mean firms are prohibited to sell another full-page ad or media kit, but it will require the old guard to learn more than just a few new tricks.