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November 14, 2006

A Citizen Marketer Hater

CITIZEN MARKETERS: When People Are the Message is the much anticipated follow-up business book from Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba. I’m an unabashed McConnell/Huba fan which began when I read their first book, CREATING CUSTOMER EVANGELISTS, back in December of 2002.

CITIZEN MARKETERS looks to be right on trend as a continuation of the CREATING CUSTOMER EVANGELIST message. After all, it’s the customer evangelist turned citizen marketer that’s driving much of the social media we are exposed to on YouTube, MySpace, podcasts, and blogs.

However … not everyone in the marketing biz is thrilled to see the rise of the citizen marketer. One such citizen marketer-hater is David Jones, global CEO of Euro RSCG.

At the recent IDEA CONFERENCE put on by Advertising Age, David Jones blasted the concept of everyday people creating marketing ideas. Instead, he steadfastly believes it’s the advertising agency that must be the entity to create brilliant ideas and that consumers should consume the ideas agencies create rather than try to create marketing ideas of their own.

Money quotes from David Jones’ address at the IDEAS CONFERENCE
include …

“Our industry cannot delegate the creation of brilliant ideas to consumers. That has to be our job.”

“What’s been quite a prevalent trend in the lazy agencies over the last two years is to go, ‘I know. Consumers can now create ideas so what we'll do is get them to come up with the idea.’”

“If you look at and go play around on the ‘YouTubes’ and ‘MySpaces’ … well, there are a few entertaining things there but there is so much utter crap there. There are only so many times you can watch someone dance in a crazy way or mime badly to a song. And so firstly, consumers aren’t that brilliant at it and secondly, what they will do is not all that relevant.”

Oh my … so much fodder for us marketers to feast on.

And since I’m going to be out of pocket for a few days, feast on more of David’s diatribe by reading this article and watching the accompanying video clip. Or, you can simply click below and watch a hastily reproduced version of the video clip uploaded to YouTube.


RSS READERS … click here to view the video.

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Comments

The word "dolt" comes to mind.

Wow, sounds like someone's getting a bit defensive, doesn't it?

He's right, of course, that the vast majority of stuff posted is fairly useless from a marketing perspective, but I think we're all rallying behind the point that communities spring up around ideas and they recruit their own converts, regardless of what we say.

A clarion call to anyone with a sub-par product or lousy customer service, don't you think?

Hmm. How can one be a master marketer and blast the consumers he's marketing to? And speaking of "only so many times you can watch someone dance in a crazy way" reminds me of how many times I've had to watch that stupid commercial for Six Flags (created by brilliant marketing minds) where the kind and benevolent older gentleman dances around in a crazy way.

Methinks he doth protest too much.

I think you're incorrect...

I pretty much completely disagree with you calling David Jones an anti-"citizen marketer"... Based on what is presented here that's not an accurate call... He's not blasting "everyday people coming up with ideas." He's blasting agency professionals who are NOT coming up with ideas.

I'm not fully informed because this video has selected bits and pieces of a speech edited which skews his message. (I can't consider it a reliable source).

BUT, even with that in mind the key message I hear is a challenge to the creative/ad agencies out there...

"Wake up! We've become lazy. Don't use this citizen marketer thing as an excuse to not be as clever as you're paid to be. Your job is to create brilliant ideas - do your job."

He is right.

Sounds like ivory tower Art Director BS. The bottom line is that what his clients are paying him for is to generate revenue. Simply focusing on the creative, and getting your britches in a bunch about who's more creative misses the point of how your supposed creativity is measuing up in creating revenue.

If he's interested in the purity of creativity for the pure art of it, perhaps he should take up a spot on the Seine and sell charcoal paintings, rather than products for corporate clients!

I think he is both right and inept. Right that many agencies have lost their way. They create for themselves or their clients instead of for their clients' consumers. He is inept at communicating, I suspect, although we must all agreee with Paul that we don't have enough information to pass judgement.

Look, here's the point: It's about the who (consumers) not the what (products and services) and brand evangelists have been around for ever.

Word of mouth marketing is as old as the cave men and women. The communications tools are greatly improved but I am a little skeptical of (and bored by) anyone who seems to have just discovered social media or word of mouth marketing.

P-Dub (that's Paul Williams from the Idea Sandbox and former Brand Autopsy blogger) ... think back to when we were at Starbucks and we tried to influence the copy that went on marketing materials. We very well "knew" that a copywriter writes copy and a Marketing Manager "manages" marketing but we still each shared our suggestions/idea.. Copywriters would balk at any copy suggestions from us marketers. And we marketers would balk at marketing ideas from copywriters. Each of us was protecting our territory. But in the end, we didn't care if it was Alice, Anna, or Thomas that came up with a killer marketing idea. We went with the killer idea no matter if it come from us or from somebody else. Right?

To me David Jones is doing the same thing – protecting the agency territory of coming up with brilliant ideas.

We both know that Starbucks Copywriters had great marketing ideas and Starbucks Marketing Managers had great copy suggestions. And I think we both know that brilliant ideas can come from everyday people as much as from big-time ad agencies. Dig?

Yes, David does blast agencies for not coming up with brilliant ideas. But I stand by my comment that David is anti-Citizen Marketer and that’s because he seems to be protecting his advertising turf.

David says in the video that everyday people aren't brilliant at coming up with ideas and that when they do come up with ideas, it’s not relevant to the brand. He goes on to say that most of the Consumer Generated Media he has seen is crap. I'd say that dismisses Citizen Marketers.

As for the video not being credible … sure, it’s a string of spliced-together comments from David but Ad Age did the slicing. All I did was videotape it off the Internet and re-post it in an "unfenced" area (YouTube). The article, written by an Ad Age reporter, backs up my angle by including David's comment where he calls much of the Consumer Generated Media he's seen as crap.

David comes off as an agency honcho who signals a warning to his industry. But from the snippets we were allowed to see off Ad Age, I think its a miss that David dismisses Consumer Generated Media as ‘crap’ and that everyday people aren't good at coming up with ideas. That’s not being a visionary leader. That’s someone protecting his turf.

It sounds to me like someone that is afraid of what's happening out there and doesn't really know what to do about it.

So about all he can do is try to rally the troops through the "What’s been quite a prevalent trend in the lazy agencies over the last two years is to go, ‘I know. Consumers can now create ideas so what we'll do is get them to come up with the idea.’"

Rather than do his rant, why doesn't he offer ways to combat the the inevitable trend that isn't going to go away?

Anybody can say that we must do our jobs better, but I don't think that is the issue any longer. Anybody can be a marketer today, and just like professional agencies, you can get a lot of junk along with the good stuff.

Boy I came to this party late, but I have to disagree with this portion of paul's comment:

"Don't use this citizen marketer thing as an excuse to not be as clever as you're paid to be. "

As a personal opinion, I think agencies need to shift away from being "clever" and move toward being both useful and brilliant at the same time with a healthy dose of common sense added to the mix.

I'm not sure that David's rant is anti Citizen—however I have heard this argument before.

Please allow me to name names. A couple of years ago I listened to Paul Tilly of DDB describe that traditional advertising staples such as 30 second spots were not going away and that traditional advertising just needed to be better (or more clever)

Then right after he showed off the McDonalds Lincoln Fry campaign which included a fake blog. Actually, one could argue that the effort was clever. It just lacked authenticity—and wasn't very compelling either.

At the end of the day—Citizen Marketing or not, the ad business needs to figure how how to help everyday customers take action. Your brand is dead in the water without this.

As usual I find myself advocating a "both/and" model. I want to keep the tension between agency creative and consumer creative alive.

I think I heard a hint of this in John's reply to Paul (sounds like the Beatles, doesn't it, oh wait, you guys are too young to know who I am talking about): "I think we both know that brilliant ideas can come from everyday people as much as from big-time ad agencies".

If the above is true, we ought to work hard to deliver "brilliant ideas" to people no matter where they arise.

Wonderful conversation John - thanks for stirring things up!!!

I'm old enough to know that Yoko broke up the band...

What does David have to say about all of this... Has he chimed in anywhere? We're so talking about him behind his back... Or are we a bunch of blog-preppies who don't hang out with the agency-jocks?

I am the walrus.

Paul,

Nice idea by Paul above -- so John ring up David Jones and get him on the blog to account for his comments. Perhaps he will make an O.J.-like defence of his comments "If I Said It..." but me thinks his comments belie a tone that is quite contrarian to the way 99% of bloggers think - if you're willing to come out against consumer collaboration and get behind so zealously the might of agency creative, I don't think we should expect a mea culpa. And he's entitled to his opinion....it just happens to be wrong.

David comes off as an agency honcho who signals a warning to his industry. But from the snippets we were allowed to see off Ad Age, I think its a miss that David dismisses Consumer Generated Media as ‘crap’ and that everyday people aren't good at coming up with ideas. That’s not being a visionary leader. That’s someone protecting his turf.
Let's be honest. The overwhelming majority of the stuff on, say, YouTube, really is crap. David doesn't appear to me to be offering any particularly novel insights, although I think he's aiming in the right direction. Does anyone really want to cite the body of work on YouTube as evidence of the power of CGM? Ben's 1% rule should pretty much cover this, right? Yes, 1% of the audience will have something profound to offer, but doesn't that suggest that the other 99% won't?

Anyway, the reason David has turf to defend is because the kind of marketing he represents has been around for a long time, powerful toolsets have developed around it, and it accounted for over $146 billion in spending in 2005*. IOW, he has turf to defend because the principles upon which conventional marketing is predicated have proven themselves to be rather effective.

I should say that I believe the internet has changed everything and the nature of that change is something about which conventional marketers are still woefully ignorant. And I concur with the sentiment of another commenter here that a tension between conventional marketing and CGM/WOM/Web2.0/etc is a necessary part of the process.

How much of AGM (agency generated media) is crap? I'd wager 90%... and I'm an agency guy.

The amount of pointless, poorly conceived/executed advertising I observe boggles my mind.

The key in either role (agency/consumer) is figuring out how to produce exceptional results. Facilitating exceptional results from consumers requires just as much (if not more) cleverness and creativity as producing it yourself.

Some excellent comments here. I too agree with David Jones on the sentiment that through crappy work, laziness and appealing to the lowest common denominator agencies have totally lost the high ground on creating big ideas (if one even agrees we ever had the high ground).

The tone is totally defensive and definitely comes across as "offensive" in places.

To me the important point is that advertisers need to overhaul the model and stop piggybacking on other people's content and develop content on behalf of clients that people seek out, whether that means coralling citizen marketing efforts or just producing a non-interuptive product that delivers some actual value to the audience for a change

David Jones, meet Charles Darwin!

Steve ... I adore the brevity and LOVE the sentiment. Very nice add.

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