What has happened to Relationships?

Posted by Dean Vegliante on November 30th, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Article Highlights

  • Are the efficiencies in the digital marketplace killing relationships? 
  • With all great products and services, there is always a human element.
  • Can a focus on efficiency still motivate publishers to produce quality content?
  • Personal relationships are still crucial to business in the digital marketplace.

A few months back at a conference, I heard something that was extremely relevant to an ongoing fear I have in respect to good old fashion business principles; “While efficiency is important, it’s not the only indicator for success, and sometimes, there are downsides to efficiency.  As an example, McDonald’s makes hamburgers more efficiently than anyone on the planet, but if you eat too many of them, they will kill you.”  

Are the efficiencies in the digital marketplace killing relationships?  Having spent the last 12 years in digital, my core focus was -- and still is -- around relationships. Whether it is building businesses, selling, deal making, networking or providing referrals to help  fill  roles for myself or friends in the industry, it all comes down to the relationships we build and maintain. 

What happened to face to face meetings, handshakes, professional entertaining and picking up the phone? Does the person ultimately writing the big media checks still get to call in a favor, or receive preferred treatment for being a loyal client who has been spending with someone for years? They should.

 The majority of recent trends and market enhancements focus a lot on technological efficiency, even down to the individual ad call and leveraging a user level cookie in real time…RTB, DSP, SSP, DMP, etc…These are all great things, but  let’s hope it’s not TNT. There is major de-personalization going on in our industry; everything is done via text, email, and Facebook. I fear it’s all electronic and there is no honor or code in it. Loss of in-person connections in our business exaggerates the lost art of the deal. What will that mean for the online ad business down the road?

There’s a lot of complexity in this space – literally layers of companies and technologies that are standing between the marketer, the producer of digital content and the end consumer that the marketer is trying to reach.   

It’s critical to the future of our industry and its many layers to remember that it’s not only about what can be calculated on a spreadsheet and presented on a PowerPoint.  In addition, each time there is a new player at the table it comes with incremental cost and tears into the classic margin that exists between the Publisher and Marketer/Agency. Here’s one question, and the root of my fears…With all these new innovative companies and additional costs, will there be enough dollars left on the table to keep the publishers motivated to produce quality content and provide the supply the marketplace demands? Without quality content to consume, we have nothing to attract users.

My sense is that there is a balance, and it comes from a good “gut check” every once in a while to make sure we all have purpose and are creating value.  With all great products and services, there is always a human element.  As a rule of thumb, if you don’t have the chops to look a person in the eye and make your point, don’t email and or text it.  Let’s not forget what humans do best: have meaningful one on one conversations and meetings that build partnerships and develop long term bonds and relationships. This is at the heart of what will truly move our industry forward.

3 Responses to “What has happened to Relationships?”

  1. Scott says:

    This is a great point... not sure how many deals have been slowed, time wasted and money lost by the round robin of emails and buck-passing that happens both internally and between partners, but I would guess it is a lot. Get on the phone, get to a lunch, hammer out the details and then stick by them. Not allowing every new technology out there to disintermediate the core business fundamentals of relationships and honesty is hugely important. Well said Dean!

  2. Will says:

    "As a rule of thumb, if you don’t have the chops to look a person in the eye and make your point, don’t email and or text it": This couldnt be more true. Preach On Dean.

  3. Dan says:

    Well said, Dean. Technology doesn't always demonstrate good judgment, and it usually can't help you determine what you're *NOT* doing.

    We are not the first emerging market to have a middleman problem (ie too many of them), but as the market simplifies itself, it will require people, relationships, and partnerships.

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