Missionary Position

I had dinner with a few clients the other night and after several bottles of wine our conversation quickly devolved into salacious banter – celebrity gossip, prep school escapades and sex. I love a good raunchy conversation.

The conversation hit a feverish pitch of hilarity when one of my clients turned to the table and said, “I know there’s hundreds of ways to have sex, but to be honest, I’m most comfortable in the missionary position. Plain and simple, that’s how I like it…” After a spate of uncontrollable laughter, I thought about his comment more and wondered if there was a larger message for ad agencies and digital marketing firms here.

What if my client was speaking in code on behalf of legions of marketers and really crying for a return to the basics – ‘missionary marketing’ – like TV, print, radio, uncomplicated Websites built in HTML with a touch of Flash and good old lead-gen banners and landing pages? What if he was begging for simpler, straightforward marketing solutions predicated on audience needs and desires (e.g., being in-touch with your love making partner) – not agency whims. What if this whole dinner was staged by him and his colleagues so they could communicate with me through storylines and other examples, ‘We like you Brad, but don’t be a douche like the rest of the idiots in your industry. Recommend what’s right for our customers not what’s going to win SS+K awards…’

I’m convinced that too many agencies are looking for ways to stand out in a crumby economy and a crowded market place and as a result marketers are suffering the consequences. As agencies continue to look for their next Gold Lion at Cannes — some big viral hit or social sensation – they’re becoming tone deaf to the only thing that matters in marketing; understanding what consumers want and delivering results.

Like post-pubescent teenagers who recently learned how to f**k, we’re overzealous and eager to show everyone our new moves (I learned this one playing Twister with my grade school friend…I learned this one from my friends mom…). It took me until my late twenties to realize that I didn’t need to bust out every move in my lovemaking repertoire to get it right (although my wife would probably debate this point, but that’s another blog post entirely). I just needed to pay attention to her needs.

I’ve been encouraged by the return by many of the pure-play digital shops to simple, less extravagant Web sites built on blog backbones like WordPress (e.g., see Big Spaceship, EVB and The Barbarian Group’s Web sites), and a philosophical understanding among a chosen few industry leaders that not everything needs to be blingy and have a confabulator built into it, but too many of my brethren are still chasing the sex fantasy.

Here’s my advise, stop trying to impress everyone with your new found skills and get back to ‘missionary marketing’ if that’s what is required to connect with consumers in a meaningful way.