Don’t Advertise unless You need To.

I finally got caught up on “Mad Men” this past week, and I was struck by the scene where Don Draper tells Hershey’s they don’t need to advertise.  Can you imagine an agency person saying that now?  I can, though not for the same reason you might think.

There’s a nuance to that line that I latched on to, though maybe not everyone else did.  It’s the difference between advertising and marketing.  To me, advertising is paid media, whereas marketing is more holistic of everything you do as a brand to engage your customers.  Advertising is a subset of marketing. Even though you may market your brand, you may not advertise your brand.

There are many brands that have done well over the years with little to no “advertising.”  For years Pabst Beer did not advertise, though it did lots of underground marketing and as a result transformed into a hipster brand, which served it well.  For many years Apple did little to no advertising and managed to create a culture of fanaticism, which the company parlayed into a massive advertising campaign to become one of the largest and most iconic brands in the world.  I still don’t remember having seen many, if any, ads for Hershey’s chocolates, but I know the company does a ton of marketing and it works.

Marketing is an art form powered by science,  a dashboard with far too many buttons and levers to count (advertising is one of those levers).   If you want to work at an advertising agency,  you learn how to plan, spend and measure the effects of an ad budget.  Working as a marketer is different because you have to learn about so many different ways to engage with customers.  The industry likes to bucket these things into paid, earned and owned media, but it’s much more diverse than that. 

In the ‘60s, I would imagine that most agencies focused on what was paid because that was what they had to work with.  There was no clutter, few choices, and the mass audience engaged with the same basic media outlets: NBC, ABC and CBS.  Radio was still strong, and print was focused on the newspapers, like The New York Times.  

At some point along the way, brilliant people came along and developed experiential marketing, street teams, and other ways of reaching an audience. Branded content, product placement and sponsorships came to light.  Advertorials, affinity marketing, CRM and loyalty programs were launched.  Shopper marketing, point of sale, affiliate programs and cause-based marketing were created.  Don Draper and his team would be shocked at the options they would have in 2013 — and that’s without even touching on the Internet.  I used to say that advertising is not rocket science, but in some ways marketing is closer to complex thinking than I ever would have thought it was.

My professors in college prepared me for a world of advertising, and my first job prepared me for a world of marketing.  College prepared me for communications planning and how to allocate budgets, but my first job forced me to think outside the paradigms of advertising and examine new and interesting ways to reach people.  It didn’t hurt that I started my first company at 21 as well, providing marketing solutions for artists and bands in New York.   I had to come up with new ways to reach people using methods that didn’t cost money.  That solution feels like the root of marketing: doing more with less, and doing it well.

So the next time you’re sitting down to think of how to speak to your customers, think about the role of advertising vs. marketing and how they differ. I think you’ll see an open opportunity to try some different things. Whether you’re a brand manager or an agency account person, you’ll start to find new ways to break through the clutter — and they may not require advertising!

By Cory Treffiletti
Cory, senior vice president of marketing, BlueKai, is a founder, author, marketer, and evangelist.
Courtesy of MediaPost

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