I’m in the midst of reading former BBDO Chairman Phil Dusenberry’s entertaining new book entitled, "Then We Set His Hair on Fire." The book chronicles Dusenberry’s various exploits and uber successful campaigns for the likes of Campbell’s Soup, Pepsi-Cola and the 1984 presidential campaign to re-elect Ronald Reagan.
As might be expected, the book has been receiving favorable reviews in the ad trades as well as the Wall Street Journal. While it is a fun read, Dusenberry’s book reflects the still-prevalent mindset among advertising types that their craft is the be-all and end-all when it comes to reaching consumers and "moving the needle" as Phil describes it.
While that may have been the case when Dusenberry was in his heyday, it simply is no longer true. The rise of technology such as Tivo, the internet, video games, and 500-plus cable channels has totally disintermediated advertising’s once unchallenged supremacy.
Consumers are completely overloaded with information and choices. Gone are the days when a 30-second spot would reach a vast majority of a prospective customer audience and induce them to buy a product or service. Instead, we’ve seen the rise of word of mouth marketing, street-level events, and public relations as the best, most effective ways to reach consumers in a one-to-one, personalized way.
And, yet, Stuart Elliot still writes about massive advertising expenditures in his New York Times column. And, we still see mindless and totally indistinguishable car commercials on TV featuring soundtracks from Rock’s dinosaurs (I defy anyone to watch five or six of these commercials in a row and then correctly name each car). As a matter of fact, except for the Geico and Mastercard commercials, I’d be hard-pressed to name any TV spots that actually break through and register in my personally overloaded mind.
So, all I’m asking is that advertisers wake up and start spending their money in smarter, more direct ways. Dusenberry and his ad agency buddies had a great run. But, the times they are a changing.