Friday, July 9, 2010

Spin all you want; Tech-savvy folks no longer buy old advertising tricks Read more: Spin all you want; Tech-savvy folks no longer buy old advertising

We’ve entered the age of action. No longer will ads, PR and spin be the sole savior to swoop down and rescue a fallen hero, sports figure, CEO or brand.

In a bygone era, advertising could clean up most any mess. But today, all the PR kings and all the ad hucksters couldn’t put BP together again.

The camera doesn’t lie. But what’s changed today is everyone has a camera. Everyone is a potential reporter and photojournalist.

In the last 10 years, we’ve seen the media’s downshift due to advertising’s Balkanized, post-apocalyptic diaspora, transformed by a new millennia, with millions of motivated mavens ready to post their perspicacious point of views.

Ten years ago, not long after the dot-com bubble burst and names like Pets.com vaporized into the ethereal pet cemetery netherworld of bygone brands, the efficacy of advertising was deemed as doomed to go with them.

Even the great Al Ries, marketing guru and author of several brilliant books and the man who coined the term “positioning,” eulogized advertising in his 2002, “The Fall of Advertising & The Rise of PR.” In it, he wrote, “Publicity provides the credentials that create the credibility in the advertising.”

In other words, until a brand has some cred, simply advertising it doesn’t do the trick. For example, if you get a sales call from a business without a reputation, no matter how good its product or service, are you going to buy it? Most likely you’ll hang up, turn the page, hit delete.

Fast-forward to today, when news and publicity are no longer generated down a one-way street, when citizens are armed with camera phones and text is a verb, where their scoop on your dirt is posted in a nano-second on YouTube, we’re seeing a further erosion — the decline of PR and the rise of real action.

Most typically, one of the first tools of crisis communications is to combat negative press with a counter punch by leveraging the stature of a CEO in ads and in front of news media. BP spent millions to lift its image, with full-page ads in major newspapers and TV commercials.

But the public wasn’t buying it. They didn’t want ads. They wanted action and BP’s Tony Hayward’s words were KO’d by the perpetual, live-action footage emanating from deep under the sea. Bottom line: Slick ads and spokespeople are no match for an oil slick.

In a constantly on world, with ever-present cameras, reality will win where manufactured moments won’t. People have little time and no patience for spin, can spot it and sense its presence in an instant. They want and clamor for what’s real, authentic and true.

It’s no coincidence that a sober desire for so-called Reality TV arose during the same tumultuous, tide-altering and highly caffeinated decade when traditional forms of media were swept away.

Advertisements, spin and salespeople are like a big monster to be avoided with TiVo. People don’t want talk. They want actions from politicians, corporations and media.

It’s not enough to say you’re going to be open and transparent, as BP has done. Because if you’re not doing everything in your power to be truthful, even before you say a word, you’ll be dead in the water.