Professor Mark Ritson has used an industry debate in Sydney to slam Aussie marketers for forgoing the discipline’s basics for a “love of shit that does not matter” (see the current obsession with the likes of VR and AI).
Ritson, an adjunct professor at Melbourne Business School and general industry rabble-rouser, told the audience at the ad:tech conference on Friday that the IT department had encroached too far onto marketing’s patch, leaving everyone confused.
He added that this had meant agencies were now receiving briefs that were “pointless, empty and embarrassing” as brands abandoned strategy to chase the next new, shiny, techy thing.
The goodly professor – who represented the affirmative side – went head-to-head with US marketing guru, Brad Berens, in a debate titled, “Technology is merely a distraction to true marketing strategy.”
A debate, for the record, Ritson was convincingly voted the winner by ad:tech attendees.
The problem, Ritson believed, was that too many marketers had forgotten the basic pillars of their craft. Stuff like: Who are you targeting? What’s the message? And what are your tactics?
And herein lies the problem. “Too many people in marketing mistake tactics for strategy,” Ritson told the ad:tech crowd.
“The problem is too many people working in tech think they’re working in marketing strategy,” Ritson declared. “Sure, they’ve got super important roles to play, but strategic it is not.
“As I wander in and out of the boardrooms of Australia and I meet the senior marketers that populate this country I’m filled with deep and enduring pain. There is, with a few notable exceptions, no fucking noticeable strategy to be seen.
“In the boardrooms of Australia, our chief marketing officers and brand managers have mistaken tactics for strategy.
“They have no idea who their targets are, they have no clear positioning and they have no objectives, but what they do have is a love for shit that does not matter; also known as techno-porn! You know of what I speak – Artificial Intelligence, virtual reality, Bitcoin and robotics. Interesting little jingly toys that have nothing to do with marketing and strategy at all.
“And the reason they are a distraction is because they get in the way. And I keep meeting marketers who don’t have a strategy but have a real passion for Instagram and want to strap their customers to a VR headset without any apparent information as to why.
“Why VR has anything to do with yoghurt is beyond me,” Ritson said, to roars from the crowd.
To prove the point, Riston declared that marketing was in “serious decline” when it came to every effective measure of effectiveness and ROI.
“Despite all the dreams of hyper-targeting and personal one-to-one marketing and the bullshit that gets talked, every effective measure shows you since 2012 the effectiveness for every dollar spent on marketing in most developed markets is in decline.
“And it’s in decline because we’ve mixed up strategy for tactics and tactics for strategy. And that’s because technology has become a distraction to marketing strategy,” he said.
Lastly, he said the problem was playing out for agencies who were being handed “embarrassing” briefs by clients bereft of any strategy whatsoever.
“They just want Instagram and Bitcoin and whatever they’ve heard recently on the street, right? It’s not good enough and it is endemic of the distracting qualities.”
“You can’t enable the nonsense surrounding digital to pervade your thinking,” Ritson believed.
“Digital marketing is a ridiculous term. And the proof is, just invert it, all these digital marketers… where are the traditional marketers? Smoking pipes upstairs watching 1950s TV? Have you not noticed that everything is digital? Have you not noticed outside that 64 per cent of all media is now digital or LECD screen? Fifty per cent of Australians now listen to radio digitally. There is no analogue TV anymore. There is no such thing as digital, it’s just marketing,” he said.