A confession: I've been cheating off Bob Gilbreath for quite some time.The bad habit started in 1997, when Mr. Gilbreath was leader of the word-of-mouth subcommittee on Procter and Gamble Co.'s Future of Advertising Summer Intern Task Force (FAST), a group I supervised. You could put hundreds of influential blog entries about social media and word-of-mouth in a blender and they'd barely rival his spot-on thinking back then. When he was promoted to P&G brand manager, running the successful, rewrite-the-rules-of-marketing Mr. Clean Auto Dry -- notching up word-of-mouth, request sampling, smart product demonstrations and early incarnations of social media -- again I found myself looking over his shoulder, taking notes. Mr. Gilbreath's new book, "The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connect With Your Customer by Marketing With Meaning," revolves around a three-tiered Hierarchy of Meaningful Marketing: solution, connection and achievement. Serve well, and you'll reap the dividends of selling. Think Charmin providing toilets in Time Square, or Samsung's One World airport charging stations that rescued me while en route to ESOMAR in Switzerland earlier this month. The book is a critical, timely and enriching read for anyone looking to succeed in a world of consumer control, media fragmentation and content co-creation. It's an honest diagnosis of advertising and marketing pains, but also a practical road map to digging ourselves out of our own hole. Mr. Gilbreath presently serves as chief marketing strategist of Bridge Worldwide, a Cincinnati-based firm that's mushroomed from a handful of geekish digerati in the early '90s to a fast-growing, 250-plus fully-integrated WPP unit. His landscape of client experience, from health care to consumer product goods, paints a diverse and richly penetrating canvas of the "new marketing." Curiously, Gilbreath openly concedes he's a walking contradiction: an ad creator by day, but an ad cynic by night. He speculates whether "advertising is killing social networking." He rails against marketing interruption, and as a dad worries about marketing intrusion and privacy. I mean, who allowed this guy to step into Don Draper's office?
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Pete Blackshaw is exec VP of Nielsen Online Digital Strategic Services and author of Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000. He is also chair of the National Council of Better Business Bureaus. His biweekly column for Ad Age looks at the relationship between marketing and customer service in the age of consumer control.