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November 5, 2010

What a cr@p campaign!

by Howard Fox Chartered Marketer

We all know the one I’m talking about. That rubbish campaign,
which clearly hasn’t been thought through. Look, I gave it a
bit of thought slumped in my couch when I was flicking through
channels I don’t normally watch. I just don’t like it. It really doesn’t “talk to me”. I feel no connection. The production values are good, of course – we can all see that, but frankly I doubt anyone in the target market will like it either, it just too… you know. And it won’t achieve either the comms or marketing objectives either.
You do know which campaign I am referring to, right? No, not that one – the other one, the one before that one.

With Professor Nick Binedell at the opening of the Video Studio at the Gordon Institute of Business Science

Criticism. There is a lot of it about. We have all faced it as marketers. And no doubt we have all participated in the guilty pleasure of criticising others’ work. The fundamental question is: As professional marketers how critical should we be of other professionals work?

My strong contention is that to properly crit the work of other marketers we need as a minimum: access to their strategic intent, definition of target market and preferably more than a little research and insight from that market. But the lack of such background doesn’t seem to prevent a wide range of marketers from commenting about the suitability of another’s campaign. In my opening paragraph – if I personally don’t connect with the ad, it is highly possible it’s not aimed at my psychographic profile. Marketers are frankly a fairly rare species in the greater South African consumer population and clearly they should not be the intended target for most broad based campaigns. If I rarely see ads in a campaign – is that poor media planning or tight targeting of a demographic profile (with consequent media consumption habits) other than my own? And the personal preference thing – based on a sample of one (or two if you include the wife who decides what I like) are we to extrapolate the overall preference of the target market?

Perhaps more importantly, what gives us the right to assume that (in light of our of necessity superficial analysis of the foundations of the campaign given we are outsiders) we know better than a team of client, strategy and agency professionals who have no doubt been working on the campaign for months?

Let’s consider the example of the medical profession. You will not in my experience find a doctor criticising the diagnosis or surgery of another. And you will certainly not receive a second opinion around the braai, criticising a fellow professional’s original diagnosis, which was originally based on an MRI scan, blood tests et al.

While we undoubtedly add to the state of the art of marketing though objectively evaluating contemporary campaigns, let’s not forget that ill-considered criticism costs the profession dear. An element of marketing communication will always remain subjective. It is that exciting creative edge which attracted us to the profession in the first place. Marketing is both “Art” and “Science”. But when we are seen to be stating categorically that another marketing professional’s subjective decisions are definitively wrong, based on an ill-informed or equally subjective opinion of our own, we diminish the statue of our entire profession. That is the fundamental issue.

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