Google, Schmoogle, Says Saatchi

The 'M' in M&C Saatchi Reflects on This Digital Era

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Remember that widely misunderstood quote that computers wouldn't be of any use in the home, the one that's gone down as a stand-in for the tendency to downplay the importance of technological change? We wonder if this op-ed piece from the quill of Lord Maurice Saatchi will be the ad industry version of that.

In a May 29 article in the Financial Times, the "M" in M&C Saatchi gets all ontological on us, name-checking Freud, Henry Ford, Orson Welles, and one Viscount Rothemere(!) in the service of an argument that current digitalmania is just hype, since people are essentially irrational and don't know what they want "until a brilliant person shows them."

It's clear Lord Saatchi, who's probably two-thirds gold bullion thanks to the interruptive marketing era, is sitting out the whole Web 2.0 epoch -- you know, the thing where companies listen to consumers and actually bring them into the creative process. But why wouldn't you when you have an 80-year-old business cliché to hang your hat on? Writes Lord Saatchi, "Henry Ford confirmed the point. Asked if he had carried out research before he invented the Model T Ford, he replied: 'If I had asked people what they wan­ted, I would have built a faster horse.'"

If you think I'm being a bit reductive about Lord Saatchi's argument, check out his own summation in an accompanying Q&A with FT readers:

"The point of the article is that Google, brilliant organisation though it is, takes a step too far in suggesting that an individual's digital search history is all that is required to know what they want. That is like saying all you need to sell something to someone is their CV."

Of course, no one thinks marketing or business should become purely the function of algorithm. But Lord Saatchi's dismissal in the wake of incredible change in media and technology seems a bit, to quote the great social thinkers Hall & Oates, "out of touch."