The Time Has Come For The Marketing Hacker

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"Measure twice, cut once."

It’s a known practice in the carpentry and construction business. The idea is fairly simple: by measuring your raw materials twice before you cut it down and try to fix it into place, you are better insuring that you didn’t make a mistake in the measurement, and that the plank of wood is going to fit rather than discovering that you have to start all over again. Mistakes are costly. It’s not only the time it takes to redo all of the physical labor, there’s also the expense of the materials and the waste on our environment.

It would be great if Marketers adapted this ideology to our profession.

I recently read that a company is attempting to make banner ads more social. This gave rise to one thought: If banners ads were any good, people would react to them. Their desire to share them would be uncontrollable. All great advertising is inherently social. 

Back to "the big idea."

In August of 2009, I Blogged about the death of the big idea (you can read more about that here: Maybe It Is Time For Marketing To Move Away From "The Big Idea"). It caused some controversy and stirred some strong sentiment in the comments section – which is understandable. Marketers often think like Carpenters who don’t adhere to the "measure twice, cut once" credo. Marketers have a nasty habit of dumping ads (the same ones – in different formats) in any place and every place that a set of eyes might find and as frequently as possible. They don’t do the measuring to ensure that the type of Marketing that they’re doing actually fits/makes sense for the channel. Digital Marketing is the perfect example of this. The current state of online advertising works like this: "here’s a page (it can be a website, Blog post, mobile app, etc…) that many people interact with – let’s put an ad (or many of them!) on it."

Why not do the right thing for the right thing?

I love Google‘s advertising platform because it is the right thing for the right thing. The advertising/marketing fits the platform. When someone does a simple search, advertisers who have a relevant message can place their "ad" in front of them on the condition that the ad has a look and feel that fits the platform (which Google enforces). If no one clicks on the ad, not only does the advertiser not pay, but the ad has a likelihood of being removed (Google wants ads that work – for both their advertisers and their users).

This is where advertisers fall down.

As integrated and new media as many of these traditional advertising agencies have become in the past short while, let’s not forget what they’re really efficient at: creating one message and repeating it everywhere… and constantly. At the end of the day, ad agencies are great at creating advertising driven by that one big idea and repeating that message everywhere. I believe that Digital Marketing is about thinking about this differently. Digital Marketing is about many messages (and stories) in many different places (or, as I call it, "many big ideas"). It can be text, images, audio, video and it can be in the form of content, contest, advertising or conversation. The line is not as clear as simply saying, "it’s online advertising." Because it’s not (which is why I have a big thing for transmedia and Digital Storytelling). Digital Marketing has made advertising much more complex. To wit, advertising must adapt, step up, mature and figure out its real place in this new marketing mix. How Marketers start to embrace and noodle with this idea of making sure that the thing (they’re advertising) is good for the thing (the platform) they’re placing it in will dictate how the industry truly evolves. If you’re a Marketer and you don’t think the situation is dire, you may want to read the Fast Company article, The Future Of Advertising (November 2010).

What the world needs now is more Marketing Hackers. 


  1. This is getting deep, Mitch. Wait, I’m on the Twist Image blog. Of course it’s going to get deep. 🙂
    Social advertising? Did I hear the name Mark Zuckerberg? You know, that kid’s pretty young but it sounds like he’s figured out something that Fortune 500 companies are taking decades to figure out.
    The right thing for the right thing. I like that a lot. I’m afraid it blows a lot of Internet activity out of the water.
    I need to apply these ideas to my own *cough* branding. Whatever that is.
    Thanks for the post Mitch. Now I’m off to type “pixels” in the box below like a good boy…

  2. In line with your message – although a different medium – is the incredible annoyance of being on hold for customer service (in and of itself a large pain) while being bombarded by useless, confusing, blaring ads for the very company you have called for support. Certainly not ‘the right thing for the right thing’.

  3. Facebook also has been working on ads and what interests us. When you don’t like an ad on the right hand side of your page you can get ride of it. They then have a few things so select that tell them why you don’t want the ad on your page, example: not interesting, offensive… It’s a great way to find out why the ad itself isn’t successful without bugging the website users to much.

  4. Perhaps all advertisements on every web site could have a simple poll at the bottom that said, “Yes, I’m interested” or “No, I’m not interested, but I like your ad.” or “No, Go Away.” I would take great pleasure in ticking the “No, Go Away” button, especially if it meant they really would go away.

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