How To Doom Your Innovative New Approach

I remember interviewing at one of the biggest agencies in the country a few years back, and during the discussion with the internal recruiter the subject of direct marketing came up.

"[Our Creative Director] made it clear that if we were going to do direct marketing, we were going to do it the RIGHT way," she said with a haughty smile.

I smiled back and nodded, thinking, "In other words, you want to throw out everything that makes direct mail work and put ads in the mail."

And, SURPRISE! That agency doesn't do direct marketing anymore. Go figure.

Then there was Steve Jobs' famous quote, "Most mobile advertising really sucks." To which he offered iAds as a solution to solve all the ills of mobile advertising.

iAds are great looking. But they also are having trouble finding buyers these days, now that the hype has faded and the CPCs are still too high.

The trouble with people who piss on the experience and expertise of others is that they usually don't know anything about the industry they dismiss. All they know is that they do not like the estetics or the creativity of the ads in questions, so they want to change everything. 

There is a big difference between innovation and reinvention. Innovation says that the radial tire on your car can now grip the road better in wet weather for better traction. Reinvention has Doc Brown saying to Marty, "Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads." And for the record, still no flying cars around these parts. How about you?

If you want to reinvent, you need to first know intimately what has made the old system work so well. Reinvention is arrogance. It dismisses much of the old way of doing things in favor of the new. But if you are going to reinvent something and have it work, you need to know how to preserve what works, while making what doesn't disappear. 

In the case of iAds, they solved big problems for consumers and developers, and giving creatives a better pallete to work with, but essentially are ad units that are too expensive by cost-per-click for most advertisers. And you can mock direct mail creative all you want, but plain golden-rod colored envelopes get opened more than your beautifully designed package.

Please understand, I'm all on board with changing and improving both mobile and mail advertising. But if you do want to reinvent these mediums, at least understand and preserve the benefits that aren't broken.

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