Thursday, July 17, 2008

David Ogilvy, The Information Superhighway, and Strategy.

Back in 1994 and 1995 I was getting started in advertising and somewhere along that line I bought a book. The book was called “Navigating the Information Superhighway”, or some iteration of such title, and it told me all about this burgeoning new media platform called “the Internet” which I had begun to get involved with a little more than 3 years earlier. My first experiences came when I started playing with Mosaic 1.0 and teaching myself Unix in the computer clusters at Syracuse University. Incidentally, or as fate may have it, one of my very first experiences with the Internet browser had me getting a peek at the Pearl Jam album cover for Vitalogy before it came out (just another reason I am so tied to this medium). The book had a glossary of terms and it listed the various search engines and portal sites which had begun to take a foothold online. The book detailed such sites as Yahoo, Excite, Infoseek and Alta Vista. It went into detail, and allowed me to write a POV on the difference between a “search engine” and a “browser”, which at the time was very little because Netscape was both at the time. It talked all about how to get on the internet, through such services as AOL and Compuserve and Prodigy and it spoke about such wonderful places at the “Cool Site of the Day” and IMDB (which is still one of the coolest sites on the Internet).

I wish I knew what that book would do to our lovely little business of advertising.

I’ve had the benefit over the last few weeks of talking to people in traditional ad agencies as well as those who sell for traditional media formats and all of them are still asking the question, “What can I do to stay relevant and useful in the new marketplace”? My answer is eerily similar; start integrating based on strategy rather than focusing on your tool as an executional solution. If you are an agency, get above the differences between online and offline. If you are a radio sales-person, start learning about how digital radio can support traditional formats. If you are a creative shop, you better learn about new programming languages.

That same year I purchased the “Information Superhighway” book I also bought another book; Ogilvy on Advertising. That book was written by David Ogilvy and in it he lays out his fundamentals for how to create effective advertising. His ideas are still applicable now, regardless of media format. He still talks about strategy rather than execution. His ideas can be applied to online just as well as to offline.

Those fundamentals are still applicable, but it is as of the consumer decided to read it too.
The consumer became more intelligent and they began to participate in the exchange of information rather than just be the target. They became assertive and they are selecting the ways in which they allow media into their day.

When I speak to these folks about how to stay relevant I typically tell them something that most other people don’t. I tell them that what they know is still relevant and they are not in need to be starting over from scratch. The fundamentals that David Ogilvy laid out are still there, you just need to be smarter in how you apply them.

The Information Superhighway, as it was originally being called, only served to emphasize that which we already know; that the human being is intelligent, social and selfish. By selfish I mean they are interested only in what interests them as an individual. The technology did not exist before the early 90’s to give them exactly what they want, but now that it’s here they are almost feverish in their adoption and they will do almost anything to quench their thirst for knowledge!

No; the rules have not changed, they’ve just cleaned up and tightened up a bit. For those of you who want to stay relevant, be open to new ideas. Embrace that technology is automating much of the legwork you are used to doing and enjoy the fact that you should be able to focus on what you really enjoy; strategy! Think strategically of how to integrate your radio buys or television buys with digital. If there are media buying services that make it easier for you to sell your product, speak with them. If there are marketplaces emerging for you to sell your services, then use them. If you need to syndicate your content across multiple platforms to reach your audience, then do so.

My best advice to those people still trying to find out the direction to go is to look at the obvious. If you are in the ad business you are in it because you wanted to be creative in some way. Very few of us are here because we love spreadsheets or because we love powerpoint. We are here because we love ideas! Soooo… put those ideas to good use. Accept change, and remember that change is good, and get going!

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