Opinions

Defining Sexy in the New Digital Advertising Economy

Posted by Steve Parker, Jr. on August 31st, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down for an interview, one-on-one, with the notorious Bob Garfield. Bob is well known in the advertising industry, mostly for his 25-year column “Ad Review” for Advertising Age, which he recently discontinued to focus on a future initiative, Listenomics. I was forewarned about Bob’s notoriety; “Bob will try to get a rise out of you,” I was told. That said, Bob is also well known for stirring things up in the advertising industry – but that’s not at all bad. It needs to be stirred frequently, and I’m happy to have Bob stir it. He had a solid point-of-view.

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Bob is a unique individual with many stories to tell, including the fact that he co-wrote a song for the one and only Willie Nelson. Now, I grew up in Nashville, so I am very partial to Willie. I know many of his songs by heart, and I’ve seen him in concert – Bob and I discussed that for a short while prior to the interview, but I digress…

When I initially met Bob, he was busy taking a few puffs on a large-and-in-charge cigar, smoke wafting from the balcony of the room. Fit my expectation of his personality perfectly – very Mad Men-ish. It was cool to meet Bob for the first time. He was cool to me, hence Bob is a cool dude. However, we have very differing perspectives on a very important, very interesting, downright critical subject:

Defining Sexy.

Yep, that’s right. Bob and I don’t agree on what is considered sexy. And I don't just mean what's sexy in terms of digital marketing. Now, don’t blame Bob because his taste is out of date and not quite as refined as mine. But seriously, Bob has no taste. Let’s look at the tale of the tape to prove it:

BOB GARFIELD                  VS                   STEVE PARKER JR
Likes Caviar                                                Likes Hummus
Likes Groundhog Day                                  Likes Ghostbusters
Likes Cigars                                               Doesn't Smoke
Likes Scotch                                              Likes Vodka
Likes Blondes                                             Likes Brunettes

The list goes on and on… Listen; there is a lot I like about Bob. But he needs to get his eyes checked because he is dead wrong on defining sexy (Bob, I owe you dinner for throwing your taste under the bus).

In our discussion, Bob’s version of sexy in advertising is a version of the 1984 Apple ad during the Super Bowl. My version of Super Bowl sexy happens every day online through digital marketing: in the long-tail of search or via detailed site analytics, social insight research and even point-of-sale data. Bob’s version of sexy is Macro; my version of sexy is Micro.

Okay, I’ll cut Bob a little slack – he’s not all wrong. However, our approach to defining sexy is worlds apart.

In my field of vision, sexy is the data and information from search, site analytics, social intelligence research, point-of-sale, call center data and other formats cultivated into micro formats to truly define the customer, the segment, the message, the trend and the brand positioning. I’ll admit, this is not standard – it is not what folks like Bob and large brand consultancies are used to. But it is the new way of the economy and the world of digital advertising.

Please comment below – I would love to hear your opinions.

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