MediaPost has a great cartoon in today’s entry of Stan Mack’s Real MAD – True Tails from Inside the Ad Biz series.
In it, we see a hapless AdTech salesperson trying to offer solutions to a rather clueless brand CEO. Despite his perfectly clear – and rather concise, albeit somewhat jargon-laden – value proposition, the CEO points out that he is not a “techie” and thus requires a “simpler” version of our protagonist’s pitch. The second and third attempts – now largely sanitized of any “techie” terms, but also increasingly without real insight or differentiation – end similarly fruitless.
Finally, our our salesperson gives his conversation partner the bottom line in easily understood terms. And, while his final summary is likely (we hope!) a true representation of the final outcome of his offer, the CEO really has nothing substantive to evaluate this. In the end, all he hears is what everyone else is promising.
At this point – one I have reached far too many times, unfortunately – the message is adequately simplified for the CEO to consume, though also homogenized to a point of having no substance. And, once the conversation reaches this signal/noise ratio, the only way to differentiate an offering or break through the clutter, is with more amplification. At this point, the competition is no longer based on merit or results, but boils down to who has the bigger bullhorn, the most reach, the biggest marketing and expense budget. This is what slows true innovation.
The fact is, CEOs – and certainly CMOs and their brethren CDOs – NEED to be “techies” to some degree, since today’s business relies on technology to work. And, let’s be frank, understanding the role of technology and its pivotal importance in modern business practices, is hardly the exclusive domain of “techies” these days.
Similarly, C-level executives can no longer excuse their ignorance of vital technical components by claiming their domain is “the big picture”. Unfortunately, all too many seem not to have gotten the e-mail. Perhaps they’re still waiting on a memo, complete with the new cover sheets. Or, they’re simply preoccupied with today’s TPS reports.