5 Popular Lies
Repetition is the soul of wit, or so it would seem.
Lies are always convenient, unencumbered as they are by the burdens of fact, but if they are repeated enough they can become popular as well. As lies spread, they will eventually encounter themselves and become self affirming. (Oh, you heard that too?).
Here’s a quick guide to five of my favorite lies which are making the rounds as we speak:
Nobody Watches TV Anymore
Of course, this is an exaggerative. I don’t think anybody really is saying that literally nobody is watching TV, just that the medium is declining and people are watching much less of it. With expanding digital and mobile media, people finally have more interesting things to do, like tweeting and making fun of their boss on Facebook, so obviously they must be watching TV less.
It sounds reasonable, but is completely untrue.. The 2010 Super Bowl was the most watched TV event ever, breaking a record that stood for more than thirty years. Moreover, as this article in Ad Age reports, Americans are spending more time in front of the TV than ever before – nearly five hours a day!
Some might say that we have to be careful when using averages. As the population ages, it’s logical that the increased percentage of retirees might nudge up the TV stats. However, a recent Nielsen report shows that teens are watching more TV as well, up about 6% over the past five years.
The demise of TV is truly a great lie – seemingly reasonable and forward looking while also not bearing even a passing resemblance to the facts.
Advertisers Are Finally Starting To Understand the Power of Digital
This lie is becoming a “golden oldie.” It seems to have persisted in almost every one of the last fifteen years (with a brief hiatus after the dotcom crash).
Again, the story line is compelling: clueless fat cats in corporate boardrooms all of the sudden have been awakened from their slumbers and have begun to accept truths that they can no longer ignore. The tide has turned and a new day has arrived!
In actuality, advertisers have been experimenting with digital since the beginning and, in fact, marketing managers go to great lengths to show that they are digitally savvy. However, beyond direct response, the performance of digital campaigns has been disappointing.
Most likely, digital advertising will attain the current market share of TV in 10 or 15 years, or roughly three decades since its inception. Given that the web is the most rapidly adopted technology in history, this is a woeful result.
As long as the digital media players continue to blame those who “don’t get it” for their own lousy performance, the lie will persist, money will be lost and businesses will fail.
Pepsi dropped the Super Bowl to Spend $20 million in Social Media
I scratch my head about this one, because the math doesn’t work – a Super Bowl Ad only costs $2.5 million. Nevertheless, the notion seems to be a favorite on Twitter and digital marketing blogs.
The real story is that Pepsi is giving $20 million away to charity, which they will promote on their own web site and on a Facebook fan page. While innovative and admirable, it’s tough to see how the promotion will provide much of a boost to social media business plans.
Moreover, the Pepsi Corporation not only did not abandon the Super Bowl, but was the second largest advertiser (tied with Paramount Pictures), buying three spots for their Doritos brand. As for the Super Bowl itself, it was sold out once again with multiple digital and tech advertisers.
If every time a major marketer decides to experiment with a new strategy the digital world touts it as a harbinger of things to come, it will never adopt the integrative approach it needs to become a real player in the media industry.
It’s All About the Conversation
Apparently, for decades companies could be successful by gleefully ignoring their consumers. Now, as the story goes, the public demands not only service, but conversation. This lie puzzles me, but I guess the rationale is that since everybody has supposedly stopped watching TV they are lonely and need a social life.
Obviously, companies have long known that listening to consumers is essential and have long spent billions every year on focus groups and other research. Social media does offer some exciting new corporate communication tools and is making listening easier and more effective. That’s extremely valuable.
In the end, however, marketers need to get their message across and that requires broadcasting. Two-way dialogues, for all of their charms, just aren’t nearly efficient enough.
The notion that people constantly want to actively engage media reminds me of when my brother visited me in Kiev a few years ago and asked me if I watch foreign films. “Watch ‘em?” I said, “I’m living in one!”
The truth is that we like to be entertained passively because most of our lives are filled with things that require our constant attention like work, family and friends. The last thing we want is to have an ongoing dialogue with every brand we interact with.
I Have a Right to My Opinion!
I saved this for last because it’s my favorite. It’s undeniably true in the abstract, but invariably a lie when it’s invoked. No one (except perhaps for the heavily medicated) actually means that they would like to hold an opinion but are being prevented from doing so.
What they really want is to have their opinions taken seriously and are frustrated when an uncaring world doesn’t comply. So they blurt out, “I have a right to my opinion!” In truth, they aren’t asserting their own rights but seek to restrict others from making honest judgments.
Of course, the matter at hand usually has nothing to do with opinions at all, but facts. Unfortunately, it’s hard to muster the requisite amount of self-righteous indignation while proclaiming “I have a right to my own set of facts!”
There are some people who simply want to believe “old media” and “old marketers” who earn billions of dollars of profits every year continue to do so by way of some mass delusion, no matter what the reality is. Unfortunately, facts, like paying taxes, can only be avoided for so long.
Of course, these are just my opinions…And I have a right to them.