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A very long time ago, when we had cynic, one of our clients was MTV.
They were an interesting client, mainly because they didn’t hire us to do ‘ads’, but to help them with their ‘commercial entertainment strategy’.
What this meant was that we got involved in a whole range of things including the mad world of television show concepting – which, on hindsight, was a bad move because it led to us starting our financially disastrous documentary company experiment, potent_flicks.
[And no Andy, it would not have been profitable if we'd turned it into a porn company!]
Anyway, the point of this post is to talk about a meeting we had with some MTV execs about ‘fan communication’.
This was back when companies had just worked out how much cheaper it was to send email correspondence rather than snail mail – which had resulted in an avalanche of pointless information being sent out because:
1. The recipient had once indicated they were interested in getting new information.
2. The company took this ‘request’ as an excuse to send them anything they wanted.
3. The brands ego was out of control and viewed all their info as amazing info.
So we’re at this meeting and MTV were asking us how they could make their email correspondence stand out from everyone else’s.
Of course the obvious answer was to only send stuff they knew was of interest to the recipient, but that wasn’t what the execs wanted to hear, so then George said something that even to this day, I love …
“Why don’t you send them a letter?”
“A letter?” said the execs in a mocking tone, “No one sends letters anymore.”
What the execs had failed to grasp was that was the exact reason why they should have done it.
The problem with our industry is that we have become obsessed with being associated with cool rather than being obsessed with understanding people’s attitudes & behaviour and thinking up ways to nudge/shift/change them in cool ways.
Of course a lot of this is because we’ve sold creativity so far down the river, that we think the only way we can remain relevant is if people think we’re at the forefront of what’s new [which let's face it, we're no where near most of the time] but it’s that attitude that is ultimately undermining what’s left of our cred, because if we simply got back to showing how we understand how to nudge/move/change people and societies thoughts/views/habits, we could get back to where we rightfully deserve.
Would a letter to MTV’s base have been good?
Well, dependent on what was in it, yes.
Would it have been more expensive than sending an email.
On face value – absolutely – however, effectiveness isn’t purely about the cheapest price, it’s about the cheapest price to achieve the goal you need achieving and if most people were getting email correspondence rather than letters [unless it was a bill or something painful] and most people were ignoring what was in their inbox, then a letter they would read and be affected by would be far more ‘effective’ than the alternatives.
The most important thing for adland to remember is that it’s not about being cool.
It’s about being clever.
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