About Marketing Creativity
A Q&A Session with Renegade Marketing's Drew Neisser

1. Why do companies / brands have to get more creative?

As consumers have become inured to advertising after years of irritating, repetitive bombardment, marketing has become a colossal game of hide and seek as consumers hide and marketers desperately seek. As consumers get better at hiding, with technologies like TIVO and pop-up blockers; marketers are forced to become more creative and find new ways to engage consumers.

2. Why is it becoming more difficult to break through the clutter?

Let me count the ways. In a world of virtually endless options, you must have some bodacious work to hold my attention. Why, because bodacious stuff is all around! Awesome graphics on Playstation, sports from around the planet on cable TV, nearly every movie ever released on DVD, old TV shows you grew up with, new shows that you've just read about in the press, etc. etc.

Actually, marketing competes with every creative thing in the communications universe simultaneously, not just other ads or other TV or print, but every divertissement imaginable.

It's really tough to get people's attention, what with Americans working longer, sleeping less, driving further, we're on a life raft full of Starbucks-powered, Blackberry-obsessed, fast-food chomping zombies, an entire population seemingly in need of Viagra and Cialis? Is it really any wonder people don't have the energy to hear a marketing pitch.

And forget about teenagers. With an iPod in one ear, a cell-phone in the other, fingers blazing IMing and TV in the background, it's as difficult to get youth's attention as it ever has been.

3. What are some creative ways to get one to pay attention to a brand?

I love what Crispin did with the Molson labels. I love BK's subservient chicken. What Johnnie Walker does with tastings is genius. Virgin Mobile's videos in the UK are great because they remind me why their phones are different.

There are a lot of interesting things going on in advergaming. advercasting. viral campaigns, in Yahoo IM environments. What Virgin mobile did on the Mtv movie awards was brilliant. I like the Scion viral effort. The American Express Seinfeld & Superman five-minute online movies and 15 second TV spots, Nike's run hit wonder campaign that brings together running and music, and there's more.

All age groups agree that there are way too many ads everywhere but each generation handles it differently. Gens X and Y are brilliant at filtering ads, tuning them out with TIVO, pop-up blockers and the national do not call registry all the while they adeptly consume multiple media.

The level of distrust of marketers is also rising as each generation gains a better understanding of the tricks of the trade. Kids grow up analyzing ads, the fallacious logic, the stereotyping and misleading claims lead them to mock ads, which is considered an art form by their peers.

4. Yet, ad spending is on the rise.

Happily, advertising continues to be part of our culture. People still talk about great ads and share them at the water cooler or online. Great ads still influence behavior, even if consumers won't admit it.

Media habits are also changing with the web becoming the hub of many consumers' lives, for communication and product/service acquisition. From cars to computers to medicine to contractors to gardening to cooking, to you name it; the first step toward acquisition is increasingly taken online.

5. What are some specific ways advertisers are trying to accommodate the new consumers?

Marketers are always looking for the optimum point of contact, when they can inform, enlighten or influence the consumer. This means spending more money online or using offline advertising to drive the consumer online.

It also means finding the consumer during their leisure activities when they might be more willing to give up a few minutes of their time, but only if the marketer can provide a fair exchange of value. Typically the quid pro quo starts with the consumer agreeing to be marketed to in exchange for being entertained, i.e. the recent American Express Seinfeld and Superman campaign or Mitsubishi's see what happens campaign.

This trend is perhaps best seen in the explosion of guerrilla programs from mobile marketing, to street theater. Have you ever attended a Nascar event? You'll see acres of 18-wheel mobile marketing experiences where the consumer willingly exchanges time for entertainment.

Few advertisers can spend the kind of money on TV it takes to effect mass-market behavior ($100 million/year). Even those with the means will continue to explore other ways to engage the consumer. Since a primary hurdle to making a solid consumer connection is trust, marketers are increasingly going out into the world to touch people directly, creating brand experiences that are engaging, believable and that inspire action. Seeing is no longer believing. Touching, feeling, experiencing is believing.

6. What is the future of advertising?

I'd love to say TV advertising is doomed but it isn't. TV is still the fastest way to reach a mass audience and to influence behavior. Every major drug company can show you how direct to consumer advertising increased the number of prescriptions doctors wrote as the result of ads that encourage consumers to ask for a drug by name.

It just costs a lot more to reach the same group and it's infinitely harder to cut through the clutter than it was ten years ago so marketers are seeking alternative approaches to effect behavior by adding more guerrilla and online activity to the marketing mix.

7. How do you see the integration of brands into lifestyle playing a role?

This is critical. If you can't integrate your brand into a particular target's lifestyle, you have little hope of engaging them on a personal level. But when you do, the results can be amazing.

For many, Nascar is a lifestyle. When Drakkar, a dormant men's fragrance, integrated its brand into this lifestyle, sales exploded. When Nike got into the skateboarder lifestyle, they regained "street cred" and sales increased. Panasonic has been targeting 16-25 year-olds for three years, engaging them at concerts, at the beach and at clubs, as well as online via viral programs like www.peopleagainstfun.org and has seen its perception ratings as a "cool brand" jump 45%.

Drew Neisser is the President & CEO of Renegade Marketing Group. Like a classic hand saw, Renegade Marketing has a distinctive knack for cutting through the baloney that impedes success. Renegade is a sanctuary for unconventional thinking, devoted to finding fresh approaches to age-old marketing problems.

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