I've been reflecting on a recent address by Avinash Kaushik to a Canadian Marketing Association gathering (I wasn't there, but I have read the script). Kaushik aptly laments the state of web-based marketing, calling it "faith-based" since it often lacks clear success measures. Kaushik concludes, "So in a channel that is so full of promise, so full of data, so empowering when it comes to relevance and creativity… why is it that we suck so much?"
So much of marketing has been this way over the course of time. Why is that?
I recall a conversation I once had with Horace Newcomb. He was the chair of the Radio-TV-Film Department at the University of Texas College of Communication when I was a grad student there. Newcomb's focus was television criticism and his classes always examined the "texts" that could be deciphered from television programming. I was admittedly idealistic about all of this. As we sat in his office one day, I asked him if he really could find value in everything he encountered on TV. A Southern Baptist, Newcomb laughed and said, "Not value. Just meaning. The fact is, most of what's on television is terrible, just like most of the books you find in the bookstore are terrible."
Why is it that marketers tend to add to the glut of communications drek in the world? Is it really because we aren't careful in establishing success measures? Or is it really largely a "faith-based initiative" as Avinash Kaushik puts it?
Last Sunday, the Super Bowl featured all the new TV spots that marketers seemed so ready to offer $3 million a pop for. Some were funny, some weren't. Some were clever, some weren't. Was the point selling products? Or did much of this advertising represent leaps of faith in believing that some impact -- any impact -- would somehow be good for business?
With all due respect to Mr. Kaushik, I think marketing is, by it's very nature, a leap of faith to some extent.