Letters, March 9, 2009

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Conferences are valuable investments

Re: "Trade Groups Must Prove ROI to Member Companies" (AA, March 2). I strongly agree with the headline of your editorial -- that every trade-association activity must deliver real value to its members. However, I strongly disagree with your exceptionally negative, highly generalized criticism of industry conferences -- criticism that makes no distinction between sales-incentive trips and informational conferences.

Well-designed, information-rich marketing conferences impart timely, actionable insights that are invaluable in today's challenging economic times. At these events, attendees learn about current trends and best practices long before they are codified by researchers, and in far greater depth than can be reported in industry trade publications. That's why attendance at two recent industry events -- the ANA's "TV and Everything Video Forum" and the IAB's Annual Leadership Meeting itopped 400 participants. A reasonably strong turnout is also anticipated at the Four A's 2009 Media Conference in New Orleans, where more than 700 attendees are expected.

Marketers are quite savvy and discriminating in evaluating activities that support their businesses. So far, attending conferences organized by the industry's major trade groups continues to be seen as a high-value investment of time and money. Recognizing the number of conferences Ad Age runs each year, it would seem that your organization has reached a similar conclusion.

Otherwise, why run them?

Bob Liodice
New York

No broken hearts over banner ads

RE: Steve Rubel's "Banner-Ad Quality Takes a Dive With the Economy" (AdAge.com, Feb 16) I've been doing online marketing for Fortune 100 brands for 10 years, and I have to say I don't think it's really going to rebound. Banners just don't have the impact that they used to. ROI is miserable. And the branding impact is almost nil due to banner blindness. Good article, but unfortunately I think we're destined for more "Acai berry" and "Credit Score" ads for a long time to come.
Jonathan Sneider
Freeport, Maine

A translation of social-media speak

RE: "When Calculating Twitter's ROI, Don't Forget Its Change on Organizations" (AdAge.com, Feb. 25). BLACKSHAW: "We need to rethink the entire notion of ROI."

CHAPEL: Translation: We've racked our brains about this and have come up with nothin'... so, let's lower expectations and change the rules.

BLACKSHAW: "But social media softens the silos."

CHAPEL: ... as well as brain cells and business discipline. It celebrates that, actually!

BLACKSHAW: "It's hard to turn over a rock in social media, dip your toe into Twitter or comment on someone's blog without rethinking the fundamentals of a firm's organization."

CHAPEL: I've turned over a lot of rocks in social media. The things that crawl underneath have lots in common -- one thing in particular: They do not understand the basis of the fundaments of an organization in the first place. It's layers and layers of make-believe business theory by people with empty pockets who cannot balance their own overdrawn check books.

BLACKSHAW: "Social media, at the end of the day, is about reinventing communication."

CHAPEL: Exactly. However, the issue is that communication is fundamentally human and timeless. The social-media evangelists are trying blindly to reinvent the "human" part of the equation based on EMPTY platitudes.

In your words, Pete, "You could even argue that it's the long-overdue realization of one-to-one marketing that we over-romanticized back in the 1990s." Yep. And if you remember, most ad guys were high at the time.

I could go on but the rest is just the same refried social-media blather. It sounds so like Werner Erhard's EST. (Note: It took about 10 years for that garbage to run its course.)

Amanda Chapel


RE: "Media Agency of the Year" (AA, March 2). Tim Spengler is U.S. president of Initiative, not U.S. CEO, as he was identified in the story.

RE: "Casseroles Make Comeback as Easy, Quick Meals for the Cash-Strapped" (AA, March 2). The fact that consumers in a recent study said they prepare casseroles between three and five times a week should have been attributed to Robin Ross, group manager-cheese, Kraft Kitchens, not Jane Freiman, group manager-kitchens at Campbell Soup. It was also Ms. Ross who expressed her surprise at the finding.

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