Wednesday, October 25, 2006

"...rates aren't higher due to one reason: Lack of courage." Dwight Case

Dwight Case, president of RKO Radio, talking to Claude Hall way back in 1976. The days when folks talked about "rate integrity"; a time when a sales manager's reputation was developed, in part, from the orders s/he walked on. Fast forward to 2006, the days of the avail as blood sport, pricing for share, pricing to survive the month, pricing to keep one's job. It seems ad supported measured media have become obsessed with optimization. The daily mission: get better, work harder, do more with less. However, the most important question should be - are we getting better at a game that is no longer relevant, better at a game being played less and less? As Norm Goldsmith once asked "Are we training sales people to make calls they are never going to make?" The recent sales issues at Yahoo are but one symptom of the tempestuous waters just ahead in 2007.

The solution is not to get better, the solution is to get different, to get into a different mind set, a new and different game. To begin we need to look at the business in a fresh way. We need to develop new share, new markets and nothing less. The dated intramural metrics are hurting more than helping. Rather than measuring performance against each other (e.g., Miller-Kaplan = radio v radio), we would benefit from a "big picture" perspective. The real world as it looks from the buyer pov. Broadcast sales managers have lost their way, lost their perspective when the single focus becomes competitive, the order of the day becomes stealing share from the other guy, when the monitor becomes principal driver of calls and activity. The marathon of intramural switch pitch wherein lower rates and valued added become the closing tools of choice. A sales team driven by compliance rather than compassion. We now have an urgent need to change the denominator rather than continuing any further neurotic obsessions with the numerator. The incremental born of iteration holds no real promise of a better tomorrow. In fact, it's a waste of critically important bandwidth or as Nicholas Negroponte has said "Incrementalism is the enemy of innovation."

Let's look at the BIG picture for a change. Broadcast v Total Ad spend. Electronic v Dead tree. Until electronic, including broadcast, gets focused on building aggregate business, creating new share, something we have never had to do previously, the danger is we will continue to be distracted in those activities required to hold share or manage share decline. What needs to change are the standards, the expectations and the metrics we use to measure performance. We need to redefine success. This will require effective leadership, imagination, investment and courage. It's work worth doing, work that matters. Game on.

Kudos to Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. Each is dedicated, in some important way(s), to inventing the future of advertising sales.