Gary Vaynerchuk dropped a few bombs from the ANA Masters of Marketing on Friday—and only six of them f-bombs.
The VaynerX chairman goaded the audience of ANA members, which collectively spend $400 billion in marketing annually, telling them that they are spending it wrong. Professional provocateur that he is, Vaynerchuk called the industry out for being mired in process; navel gazing rather than being focused on the consumer; beholden to old methods of media buying (saying that too many marketers treat digital as “matching luggage” to TV), and being enamored with irrelevant, plain-vanilla marketing. He also called for brands to bring their work in-house and called for the unbundling of media and creative, all in the space of 35 minutes.
“This industry is looking at yesterday and putting it on a pedestal of how we used to tell the story,” he told the audience. “The biggest elephant in the room is that the industry has wildly overvalued potential reach and subjectiveness in lieu of relevance to the end consumer.”
Vaynerchuk says brands are overlooking—or not even understanding—digital media and the need to churn out hundreds of pieces of contextual creative finely targeted to consumer needs and delivered at the right place at the right time, whether that is through YouTube, TikTok, Instagram or somewhere else. Instead, he says, brands look at digital as “lower funnel” media while still relying on the usual, often outdated, staples. “We are so enamored with scale,” he said.
Vaynerchuk also chastised the audience for being too tied to metrics, citing the example of a client that refused to advertise on TikTok “because there was no report for them to latch onto.” The industry, he charged, values “bullshit reporting over common sense.”
“Relevance in this industry is declining by the second,” said Vaynerchuk, noting that the higher marketing executives salaries get, the more they lose touch with the average consumer. “This industry has enormous audacity,” he noted, adding, “the internet does not care about you or anyone else.”
He said that while marketers like to talk about consumer control, the actual decisions are made in ivory towers. The notion that a good idea can come from anywhere “is complete horseshit. Queen Bee decides,” he said referring to the top-level marketer.
And when a decision is finally made, Vaynerchuk says, it takes an inordinately long time to get it approved and done. “We sit in a room for 12 weeks come up with an idea and then push it down, he said. When an agency is awarded an account and “nothing sees the world for nine months—what the fuck?” he said. “How does that make sense?”
“We are looking at reports and debating adjectives for hours,” says Vaynerchuk, or evaluating a shade of color in an ad “for 45 fucking minutes.”
As for media, he said that the separation of media and creative has led to neither discipline being held accountable for the work. “The brands in this room should force agencies back to that [bundled] model,” he said.
Vaynerchuk also expressed no love for holding companies. “It is devastating to me to watch so many people working so hard just to be an Excel number on a P&L.” He added: “We are all tired. Everyone is tired because 11 fucking bankers made all the money.”
At his conclusion, ANA President-CEO Bob Liodice seemed wary in his Q&A with Vaynerchuk, saying “You look at life through a different lens,” and that “people will agree and disagree.”
But there were outbursts of applause through Vaynerchuk’s talk, and he said from the stage that audiences like ANA often say little publicly, but afterward “send me private messages from Gmail or Hotmail that say ‘just keep going.’”