Expert Advice: What's the Big Idea!

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I was one of two people from direct response television out of the thousands who attended the OMMA West conference in March. I found myself surrounded by strangers from big ad agencies who make big money off of big ideas (I had no idea that was a bona fide advertising term) seeking the solution to satisfying their big brand clients (who were also there) and who are now requiring new media (Internet) campaigns to be performance based and driven.

Well, that's a short explanation of why most attendees were there.

As a writer, director, producer and campaign manager of long-form and short-form DRTV campaigns, my entrée into the agency world, albeit for two days, left me a bit bewildered.

One reason is the following. Although I thoroughly enjoyed Deutsch Los Angeles chief creative officer Eric Hirschberg's enthusiastic speech about conquering the dilemma of capturing the teen demo and making them believers in the "not so cool" brand of Old Navy. I found myself not grasping what type of media the "creative" actually ran in. Was it new media/Internet-based ads or was it traditional spot TV? And if it was new media, then where did it air on the Web -- Yahoo, MSN, MySpace, AOL?

Give us a clue! Since it was successful, how so? How did you determine that success? By CPC, RPC, MER, what? I couldn't help but wonder the real reason for showing us the campaign. Could it have been a case of ego, or a great way to use the forum to show his agency's work?

We then played a "Who am I?" game. As the audience closed their eyes, he recited brands that an [unknown] person would wear, use or have in their life. The audience guessed (eyes opened) what type of person this was. The idea was to prove that we are a brand-driven society. How remarkable! But wait - hasn't it always been that way? Am I the only one who finds brand overload a bit on the "trying too hard" side? I mean, does anyone really want a brand for a first and last name and a life of wearing them? Yet this is what our next generation is: Just a "brand." How sad.

At a certain point, the audience applauded a remark about how great it was to see our next generation be the most intelligent yet. No doubt I say, they are probably Mac G5's!

Look, I get it. Things change, life becomes more automated and technology becomes an integrated part of our lives. Why is it so hard to understand that the Internet is just a simple case of direct response? After all, DRTV has been engaging the consumer for 25 years. Its message is precise, compelling and life changing. It has to be.

Perhaps OMMA next time will invite speakers and experts from DRTV. Hopefully the big ad agencies and the big brands will recognize the value of a 25-year-old industry that grosses billions of dollars a year in sales by engaging the consumer and being accountable for a campaign's performance. You see, in DRTV we simply live and breathe every click, hit, view, call and dollar. After all that's the big idea, isn't it?

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