Why pushing will get you slaughtered in advertising; and pull is the future.


I’ve been thinking a lot about marketing and advertising lately. Not too long ago, I wrote about services and I’ve been spending time with many thought leaders in the space trying to find some blue ocean to explore. I think I found some and I am ready to start talking about it. I’ll start with one concept in this post: push versus pull.

Let’s first talk about the push format.

If I think about Madison Avenue and the “advertising product” that is created by the titans of the creative business (Chief Creative Officers), for the most part they are creating push format advertising products.

Push formats are also considered “outbound” messaging. Examples of this are television spots, print ads, banner ads, pre-roll video, telemarketing, trade shows, direct mail, email blasts, press releases, and radio ads amongst others.

People are receiving hundreds of advertising messages pushed upon them daily by brands of all sizes, shapes, and colors. No wonder advertising response rates are low: people need to tune out advertising in order to go on with their daily lives. An ad can be amazing but if a person is in tune-out mode, then no ad will get through to that person.

The largest advertising holding companies which own some of the most widely known and respected agencies are built upon the concept of push marketing. Omnicom and WPP combined have close to 200,000 employees who are creating and purchasing push-based media across the globe.

I’m pretty sure that people are getting tired of brands pushing their way into their lives.

Please pull me in.

First, head to Amazon or your local library to pick up a book written in 1999: Permission Marketing, by Seth Godin. The quote below (from Seth) pretty much sums up the idea behind the book.

Permission marketing is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.
It recognizes the new power of the best consumers to ignore marketing. It realizes that treating people with respect is the best way to earn their attention.
Pay attention is a key phrase here, because permission marketers understand that when someone chooses to pay attention they are actually paying you with something precious. And there’s no way they can get their attention back if they change their mind. Attention becomes an important asset, something to be valued, not wasted.

Once you’ve gotten up to speed with Seth’s view on permission, then read Doc Searls’ piece titled At last, Cluetrain’s time has come.

we are not seats or eyeballs or end users or consumers.
we are human beings and our reach exceeds your grasp. deal with it.

If you combine Godin and Searls, you’ll understand that people (Searls) ignore marketing (Godin) and the way for brands to reach people is to be pulled in. How do you get someone to pull a brand in? Stop thinking about advertising to them.

Start creating value for the person. Examples of pull marketing include but are not limited to apps, games, bots, search marketing, blogging, social media, RSS/Content Syndication, articles, ebooks, white papers, videos, and presentations.

Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.

I was thinking about the above quote to end this article so I Googled it to find a source but I came across a definition on Fool.com which delivers exactly what I was hoping for but instead. Because of the financial definition, I will provide my notes intertwined below.

“Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered” is a pretty simple saying that conveys more than it first appears. Its meaning is simply this, do not let greed affect your judgment. While this is simple its applications are many.
There are several ways the stock market punishes excessive greed. Among the ways the market punishes greed is through churn caused by commissions. The mere act of buying and selling can rack up huge costs for investors, including lost performance due to loss of capital and higher taxes (the federal gov’t counts each transaction you towards your capital gains). Thus as Warren Buffett has famously advocated the ideal holding time is forever, as you never incur transaction or tax costs.

In the advertising business, think of this as media buying commissions. I’m not saying that you should not make money as a media agency but if you are set in your ways and not willing to change because of how you are making your commissions, then you will get slaughtered.

Another way the market can punish greed is through unreasonable expectations. An investor who is doing well might expect to do even better in the future ignoring reversion to the mean. This may cause the investor to hold onto stocks past the optimal time to sell them or overpay for new holdings. This mistake commonly occurs in bubbles.

In advertising, it is common to compare current performance to historical performance of a campaign. Consistently expecting better performance without some kind of reversion to the mean is bonkers.

A third way the market can punish is by those who chase performance. Investors who buy what has done well recently (hot sectors e.g.) can often find that they underperform the market. Yesterday’s biggest winners are often not tomorrow’s.

Much of advertising falls into group think. “They made a TV spot, so I should too” is all too common stupid thinking.

If you, advertiser, are going to want to win in the next decade or two, you’ll need to recognize people (not consumers) and provide them with ways to pull you in. Be a bull or even a bear and let go of your historical ideas of pushing media onto people who are consistently blocking you. It might be uncomfortable at first and you might have to fire your legacy agency, but it’ll be liberating and fun and will work out in the end, I promise.

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