My response to the angry CMO: Call it “Revenge of the Nerds, Part 1”
September 7, 2010
Over the weekend I read yet another article featuring a chief marketing officer bemoaning his advertising agency for (among other things) being out of touch with new media. This is for him, recompense in two parts. It’s all in good fun…
We all know the last few years have seen advertising agencies universally scrambling to figure out and monetize social media. Some are doing it better than others but all of us are feeling the heat. Adland wants to master social networks so we can sell that mastery to our clients. No big secret, right? The diminishing role of mass media, as a source of revenue needs to be replaced and social media is that new well. Maybe I’m overstating the issue or understating it. Either way, we agency folks are feeling the heat.
Yet, what if it’s actually advertisers who are most threatened by social media? What if clients are the ones truly freaking out? Not us. Them. Think about it. Clients are the ones who got advanced degrees in marketing, learning a ton of stuff that no longer has value. (Did it ever?) I don’t know about you but I got a liberal arts education. I took writing and psychology courses. Wrote a screenplay for credits. Hell, I only took one ad class and it was pass/fail.
The average CMO spent 8 years in college(s) learning stuff that seemingly no longer applies. No wonder they’re scared of new media. They didn’t take that class or anything like it. Maybe now they do but not then. If anything, such courses evolved out of communication arts, not business or marketing curriculum. Chances are, then, we artists and writers got the leg up. We were already learning how to communicate via film, design, poetry and prose. New media was merely an extension of that, albeit a significant one.
And they, with their popped collars and backward baseball caps, laughed at us. “What kind of job do you expect to get with that,” they sneered.
And what about the kids who studied computers, anthropology and psychology, all those courses no self-respecting Master of the Universe would ever enroll in? Those wimps, as much as anyone, understand human behavior and therefore the true promise of social media. They know it’s not a tool with an instruction book. They know you don’t need a master’s degree to master social media.
According to Wikipedia, Mark Zuckerberg studied Latin and enjoyed dicking around on the computer. In other words he was an odd duck who didn’t quite fit in, especially at Harvard. That is until he invented Facebook. I haven’t seen the new film, The Social Network but I’m guessing it’s a lot like Revenge of the Nerds. How sweet it is to think, nay know, that it is we, the curious legions of liberal arts majors and rogue bohemians, who understand social media and intuitively grasp its mechanism. For us it is just more of what we already know and like.
So why do clients belittle us, decrying our ineptitude at bringing them solutions, even when we do? Next up, a closer look at social media in Adland, before and after.