A market never gets saturated with a good product, but is very quickly saturated with a bad one*

*Henry Ford. It’s good that he can’t see the auto industry today, the poor fellow would probably re-die. Anyway, that’s not the point. What this sentence reminded me of is digital marketing “products” in 2008. I really don’t think that ads, branding campaigns, and promo efforts were ever more boring, quickly “saturating the market.” Lessons learned don’t sound convincing enough. While I am marginally interested in yet another lame mention that “consumers need to be engaged”, I am more curious about who should we thank for the awesomness of digital marketing today?

If I had to rank campaigns by 1) futility of the effort; 2) waste of client’s money; 3) display of a thorough non-understanding of the digital space, my personal favs would be: 1) AT&T Speak in Thumbs, by Atmosphere BBDO — I was silent for a moment when I saw this one, unsure if someone put me in a time machine as a revenge for something I said on my blog or, this is a cruel joke on Atmosphere BBDO (by someone who approved the campaign), or both; 2) J.C. Penny Doghouseby Saatchi&Saatchi — this one is no worse than any 30-sec spot, just longer (much, much longer). Does something that lasts 5 minutes and regularly takes the equal amount of time to load count as “viral” video? Isn’t then file sharing of feature-length videos also “viral”? Funny how the standards work … Anyway, the campaign plays with honestly retarded stereotype of male’s insensitivity + it cost way more than the attention it generated. Not even mentioning the sales-lift here since J.C.Penny asked to be included in the fed stimulus plan on Dec. 24 + it’s sooo long, who has that kind of time & attention online? Also, what’s up with Kevin Robert’s “i am a royal douchebag” blogging?? (someone should pass him a note that economic times are, well, tough); 3)Digital Drag Race for Intel — it breaks my heart to mention Razorfish again here, but this campaign, after almost 2 months, generated 12 video entriesand 10 YouTube channel subscribers. BUT — to be fair — the live digital drag races are planned to be held on January 9&10th in Vegas AND are yet about do wonders for the campaign ☺; 4) Sprint’s Plug Into Now — I just don’t like Flash used like this; more importantly, entertainment value is moderate and the potential for the long-term interest is marginal (“my body just made 50 mil new cells” … ok, I have to go now). Never been a big fan of robot-like voices, too. 5) Fiat Eco Drive by AKQA — there’s a lingering question of why to over-design an interface for a great service and, more importantly, why to design it sooo terribly. Note: the target audience is ADULT MALE, and the interface looks like this. I am sure that there are many many more sad digital marketing efforts, but this is all I could remember just now. What’s worse, as time goes by, I have increasing problem differentiating between campaigns by these agencies. Not only they are all equally bad, they are for the most part each other’s imitations and variations of the same formula (not sure what the formula is, tho).

But, since this is the time to make New Year’s wishes, if I could choose, I would like to see more stuff from these agencies: 1) Crispin, Porter + Bogusky — whatever Crispin delivers, generates [not always justified] buzz, but they are the only ones who created a campaign that combined great understanding of the audience, of their client’s brand, and of the medium used for promotion — think Whopper Freakout; 2) Anomaly — true to their name, they don’t fail to generate a steady stream of campaigns that are always slightly different than what everyone else is doing: Converse &Identitee; 3) HUGE — their deliverables will not exactly spur consumers’ imagination, but their clients always know exactly where each dollar of their budget is spent + HUGE knows that brand experience = user experience. And this is why users come back to Family.com & JetBlue.com. 4) Barbarian Group — they have yet to prove themselves with more campaigns, but since they have some of the smartest people in the industry, I am eager to see what they will come up with. Putting them here for their potential, and for “I saw it on CNN” +Getty Images moodstream; and 5) Big Spaceship — not sure if this one really belongs here, since they are mostly a production studio, but ever since HBO “Voyeur” thingy with BBDO I can’t help but thinking that there’s a lot more to them than just executing someone else’s ideas. To conclude: these 5 companies are very different from each other, and I think that’s great: diversity of market players is really the key to innovation (in contrast, all traditional & big digital players are pretty much the same …). So, not only that the outcome of a competitive market is innovative products/solutions, but the continuous transformation. Those people compete on both on innovation & on their expertise. Plainly said, that means that it’s not very likely that they will ever saturate the market with the bad product. They won’t even deliver two products that are the same. Hope that clients take notice.

This post first appeared on I [Love] Marketing on January 5, 2009