“If the first time someone sees an ad for a Mercedes Benz is the first time they can afford to buy one, then it’s probably too late.” ~ Irwin Gotlieb, Chairman – GroupM
In a world of last click and other short-term attribution models, Irwin’s intent was, and is, to point out that many brands build their franchises with consumers over time, and sometimes, over a very long time indeed.
Of course, Mercedes never specifically set out to advertise to 12-year-old boys who would give their dads extra points for coming home with the three-pointed star on the hood and in so doing enter the invisibly distant reaches of the purchase funnel and years of passive, then active, nurturing. Of course they did not have to, as their TV ads, sponsorships and other brand-building platforms would, for the most part, be as visible to kids as dads. It did not really matter that the kids did not read newspapers much and see the latest lease offer as tactics that drove short marketing effect were entirely irrelevant to this long-range prospect.
Now things are different and getting more different by the day. Kids don’t consume as much media alongside their parents as they did in the broadcast age and, when they do, it’s with something other than their undivided attention. This is a function of intimate lean-forward devices and the largely personal platforms that populate those devices and dominate their use.
So, the question arises: “If Irwin was right (and he often is) should Mercedes be advertising on Snapchat, Instagram and elsewhere?”
It’s an easy enough question to ask but a pretty hard one to answer.
To answer “yes” requires a belief in a premise that won’t be proven for 20 years, a time span in which Snapchat may not exist and one in which cars may not require a driver. It requires a belief in the notion that, if some brands a century old will survive another few decades, it requires the acceptance of using media platforms and creative assets that dads may not understand, let alone use. Above all it requires the acceptance of the opportunity costs of short-term effect strategies under-applied at the expense of the long-term.
To answer “no” takes no courage at all, but may leaving a nagging doubt that brand X will only ever be ‘your dad’s brand’, and never yours, because if the first time you hear of it is the first time you are in the market for it, it may be too late.
Based in New York, Rob Norman is the Chairman and Global Chief Digital Officer for GroupM, the largest media investment agency in the world. Mr. Norman has held a variety of Director, CEO and Chairman roles with agencies across the media spectrum, and is currently a Non-Executive Director for BBC Global News Limited. Follow Rob on Twitter.