What Would David Ogilvy Do?
"If it doesn't sell, it isn't creative."
"I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information."
"Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image."
"Ninety-nine percent of advertising doesn't sell much of anything."
These four quotes from advertising legend David Ogilvy formed the basis of Johnathan Salem Baskin's opening keynote at the first InterACT! Conference. Baskin, a global brand strategist and author of "Branding Only Works on Cattle" and "Bright Lights & Dim Bulbs," titled his presentation "David Ogilvy's Revenge: The Return of Marketing Realism." His premise? He isn't buying social media for social media's sake, and only recommends it if it's being used as a means to an end.
Baskin's first victim was Old Spice, and its "Smell Like a Man" ad campaign on YouTube that was all the rage earlier this summer.
Old Spice made history with the campaign, dominating YouTube for the week ending July 23 with eight of the 11 most-watched videos, racking up tens of millions of views. The campaign, in which its spokesmodel quickly shot mostly unscripted and hilariously funny replies to nearly 200 online inquiries (including some from famous people), prompted numerous copycat videos and got covered by just about every news outlet in America.
Baskin wasn't impressed. "Sure, this was fun, grabs everybody's attention, and probably made Old Spice's agency, Wieden + Kennedy, very excited," he said. "But what happens now? The half-life of viral fame is short. There have been numerous top 10 lists on YouTube since then. The campaign was wildly creative, but what was the point?"
While some attendees in the audience disagreed — one attendee said sales were up 100 percent after the YouTube clips were posted — Baskin still stuck to his guns.
Even Barb Pellow — group director at InfoTrends who offered a keynote session moments before Baskin where she offered up the Old Spice campaign as an important example of social media working — disagreed.
"OK, so sales were made now, but what will happen two or three months from now? What's the residual effect?," Baskin asked. "How will Old Spice build on the actions of these consumers to sell more down the road? I don't know."
"I have to respectfully disagree, Johathan," Pellow said. "Sales were made as a result of the campaign, and as you have said yourself, advertising's purpose is to to sell something."
Baskin's next victim was Ford, and its Fiesta Movement, which involved providing 100 social media-savvy individuals with a Ford Fiesta eight months prior to it being manufactured and released in the U.S. They were encouraged to share their experience with the car over six months on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.
"This was nonsense," Baskin said. "Ford hasn't sold a single Fiesta from this campaign. All we get are some riduclous amateur videos. Boring."
In both examples, Baskin's main point was that brand marketers should be thinking like direct marketers. With every campaign they create, and no matter how creative they get, they should always have the end goal of sales top of mind.
"In these days of clutter and distractions, the deliverable can't only be awareness or chuckles, no matter how immense the numbers," Baskin said. "Just making noise is an idea that was old 50 years ago."
They also should be upfront about what they're doing; not ashamed that they're actually trying to sell somebody something, he said.
"There's a reason most young people today don't trust corporations," Baskin said. "It's because we continually lie to them. Tell people that you're trying to sell them something. Be open about it."
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