It’s All Advertising, isn’t it?

Dec 11, 2022

Lord Northcliffe, the UK newspaper tycoon who owned ‘The Daily Mail’ famously said: “News
is what somebody somewhere wants to suppress; all the rest is advertising.” An unknown
consumer said: “It’s all advertising, isn’t it?”
One of my favourite quotes comes (of course) from Jeremy Bullmore: “People build brands the
way birds build nests. Through the straw and scraps they chance upon.” Note, it is people who
build brands.
The other week I was robbed. This has led me to spending more time than I would like with
banks, phone companies and insurers. One has been outstanding, two truly dreadful.
The dreadful ones have failed to communicate internally, leading me to having to explain what
happened over and over. They have also failed to answer mails, have cut me off when on the
phone, and have sent me contradictory letters from unidentified ‘team members’ with no means
to respond to them.
None of this is unusual, I hear the same thing over and over. Unresponsive, uncaring, ill-
informed responses to life’s little crises.
And yet the same organizations spend millions advertising their friendly teams, their willingness
to help.
And then they go and outsource their customer-facing roles either to a chatbot that struggles to
answer the inanest query, or to a bored individual who could not care less as to your plight and
whose sole objective is to pass you along to someone else.
Even less understandable, hugely expensive brand campaigns do not seem to exist outside their
designed-for channel. Are company owned websites consistent with the brand’s advertised
persona? Do retail outlets mirror the same organization’s video commercials? Do the trucks
moving product around the country speak to the same brand values as the advertising?
Yes of course some do, but most, by far do not.
It is worth calling these things out. For decades I have been a loyal BMW customer. Last year I
decided to look further afield. I read reviews, answered ads, responded to websites, and visited
car showrooms. Most of these last were unremittingly awful. Yes, they were bright, full of shiny
cars and some even had comfortable chairs, but none had anything to do with the expensive ad
campaigns favoured by the sector.
BMW themselves were not expecting me at the dealership (the same one I have bought from in
the past). The salesman couldn’t have been more bored; wasn’t well informed as to his products;
and didn’t follow-up.

I bought a different marque, selling them my BMW in part-exchange.
6 months later BMW asked if I would consider selling them my second hand car.
3 months after that the BMW finance team approached me offering a new finance package.
3 months after that and I am still receiving mails asking me to bring the car in for a service.
I know perfectly well that there are manufacturers and there are dealers. But to the consumer
they are one and the same, joined at the hip. Good work by one is easily undone by shoddy work
by the other.
I realise that concepts like lifetime value have their critics, but regardless I like to think I was a
valuable customer to BMW – one that their incompetent and fragmented communications
strategy has played its part in losing.
Who will take internal responsibility for losing me? Will anyone even know? The marketing
team will say they drove me to the dealership, so they did their job. The dealer will say the
product range did not meet my needs. So not their problem. The used-sales, finance and service
people will say, ‘who are you and how can I help.’
We have to do better. Online campaigns are not just performance marketing, they are
advertising. Point-of-sale is not just retail, it is advertising. In store display is not just
merchandising, it is advertising. Emails are not just direct communication, they are advertising.
Chat bots are not just algorithms, they are advertising. Call centre staff are not just frontline
representatives, they are advertising.
Everything that communicates with the consumer or prospect is advertising.
My Crater Lake colleagues at MESH Experience, almost alone amongst research agencies tracks
exposure against all touchpoints thus providing the evidence to those smart enough to know it’s
important to quantify these things. They’ve also authored an excellent IPA initiative designed to
highlight the role and value of owned media.
Our Crater Lake colleagues at Navigation have developed ways of isolating the effect of all
channels. It is all advertising, so best to quantify how it all works.
Next time you feel moved to complain about a company’s treatment of you find out the name of
the CMO and copy him or her in. They should be pleased to hear from real people.
Obviously there will be mistakes, people have bad days, messages go astray but surely, we
should aim high. And we should praise those who get it right.
And so, for my part, well played More Than Insurance. And boo to NatWest and Vodafone.


1. Andrew Brown
2. Hear hear!…only two weeks ago my Eurostar (returning from the ASI event) was
cancelled due to UK rail strike. The marketing dept. continued to offer me opportunities
of (paid) upgrades. As for calling the service centre for my refund…they shut the lines as
they were getting unprecedented call volumes!…ooh I feel better for sharing that!
3. Cog Blog
4. 17 November 15:29
5. We were on the same train! Or rather we weren’t!
So I share your pain!
6. Bob Wootton
7. 17 November 17:39
8. Really resonated with me. Spent much of the past fortnight trying to resolve a long-term
connectivity problem with my Sky TV. I use Virgin for my broadband on which the
newer Sky products rely (the Sky offering where I live is inferior). So I am stuck in a
demarcation dispute with two companies who are utterly determined not to engage with
me as a customer.
9. Hilary Woods
10. 29 November 14:54
11. you are so right, Brian Jacobs, it is all ‘advertising’ because they are all visible to the
consumer and, guess what, the consumer doesn’t care what it is called, they just add up
(‘the straws and scraps’). Sadly though, even the CMO isn’t always interested when you
do get in touch even though, to quote the one from Sykes Cottages who did at least have
the courtesy to email me back and say, they ‘are always interested in customer feedback’
– as he passed me over to someone else to deal with.
Published by Brian Jacobs at Cog Blog, on Nov 17, 2022

Mediarisk is associate of EBIQUITY for GR & CY

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