There is a saying in poker that goes "If you can't identify the mark at the table, you are that mark."
That saying kept going through my head as the morning sessions for Ad:Tech/Chicago wore on. After two keynotes and two breakout sessions, I kept wincing every time someone bashed the 'client' for not understanding how social and digital marketing planning should proceed. Then, after seeing the agency or service-side people argue on panels or contradict each other on the proper way to plan, I can't help but thinking "no wonder why clients are so apprehensive and anxious about this burgeoning category!" We can't get our shit together as marketers and agree on some standards at it relates to platforms, metrics and more.
We're arguing amongst ourselves and we're using numbers to contradict our cases. In one session, we hear about how TV is still the kingpin and will be for the next 5-years, on how digital will still only account for 20% of the dollars in 2014. In the next session, the numbers tell a very different story about how social and digital are the most important mediums at key points in the decision-cycle. We are using numbers to serve our own purposes. If I were a client (and who knows, I could go to the other side, someday) I'd be horrified at the discombobulation we are showing.
My unscientific observation is that 30-35% of the attendees are client-side, both local and larger-brands with offices in Chicago. Most probably hosted by their agencies, media or otherwise. It seems that the people that are speaking (that I've seen anyway) keep mentioning that clients just don't get it - sometimes they come at it directly, sometimes they are more subtle.
Is the mark the client or the agency in this case? I argue we are the marks. The agencies and all of the service providers that surround us are the marks. Because, for the most part we aren't even looking around the table to see who the mark is. This is a wake up call to all of us agency-folk, leaders or otherwise. We are our own worst enemies. We are spewing buzzwords, cliches, empty case studies where the 'idea is king' and still haven't answered the key questions that the CEO's that rose to to top are still asking us.
The clients are sitting back and watching us beat each other up and selectively choosing which ones of us to work with on their 'experimental' campaigns and/or budgets. Let's get it together, people. Let's all agree that TV is still important (even if you don't do it) and that the other mediums are critical, as well. We get paid to tell our clients how to spend their dollars to make the most impact against their core targets.
Okay, off the soapbox.