Cue REM: It’s the end of the world as we know it…

Okay, I guess I’m going to have to stop reading the trades, ‘cause this is getting kind of silly lately. Of course, the desire to “warn” about the coming demise of any digital phenomenon — watch out, if you invested in that, you’re about to go under! — is about as powerful as the obverse: Watch out, if you don’t jump on this you’re about to go under! The latest to cross my desktop: “Why marketing as we know it will end in 2016,” courtesy of Talk about a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun! The only reason this doesn’t belong in my Chronicle of Inane Tweets is because, well, it’s not a tweet, but a Web site article/video.

Cue REM: It’s the end of the world as we know it… The “argument”? The “desktopocalypse” — another god-awful ugly word, coined by the article’s eMarketer author, that he has every right to keep for himself or eMarketer, and which he is, thankfully, in no danger of losing — is coming, by year-end 2016:

This will be the year that U.S. digital ad spend, including display, video, email, lead gen, and search advertising, will shift wildly from desktop and laptops to smartphones and mobile devices… and it will mark the first time in the history of digital marketing where desktop computers and laptops will take a prioritized back seat to smartphones, tablets, phablets, and other mobile innovations.

Accurate? Most probably; it’s pretty safe to trust eMarketer stats, so let’s let that slide. And while mobile is defined here — quite inadequately — as any digital device that you can actually carry around with, or on, you, as opposed to our apparently no-longer-loved desktops, we can let that slide, too. (But are you really in the same mode using your smartphone as when you’re using your tablet, let alone your phablet, lazing on the couch with the flat-screen on? I think not. And is your laptop not a mobile device? And what about your shiny new digital watch? That doesn’t count by year-end 2016?)

So, marketing “as we know it” — i.e., as a desktop/laptop paradigm — will be over when by 2016 marketing, or rather advertising, dollars will have flowed from that paradigm to mobile marketing, the new paradigm. (Maybe we shouldn’t be so generous, then, to let slide the insufficient understanding of “mobile”!)

See the problem here? Once known mostly as a term of art in logic, but now, I think, pretty well socialized among the educated, the problem is non sequitur. Here’s a simple definition: A non sequitur is an argument in which the conclusion fails to follow from its premises; it’s a mistake in which a “that” simply does not follow from a “this.” In this case, the “this” is the covert definition of marketing as the desktop paradigm and the “that” is the new and coming soon mobile paradigm. The “that” is the — non sequitur — conclusion that marketing is over because more marketing (i.e., advertising) dollars will be flowing from the desktop paradigm to the mobile paradigm.

But even by the stats offered, marketing ain’t over in 2016; it’s just been redefined to be “mobile” rather than “desktop/laptop,” and such redefinition itself only holds because the author covertly equates marketing to advertising spend. (Yep, you’re quite right, that’s another another non sequitur.)

I said I wouldn’t dispute the eMarketer stats, but are we sure that the “wild” shift in ad dollars to mobile really means an inevitable drop in desktop ad dollars? Maybe, but, gee, that certainly hasn’t happened to dollars for TV ads, as the author concedes in the video; so why be so sure that the undisputed acceleration of ad dollars to mobile is really a shift in ad dollars from the desktop? Maybe even more absolute dollars will flow to the desktop, to serve those now even more valuable niche demos that refuse to abandon their digital grazing on that device for their phones and phablets, just as the bucks keep pouring in big-time for the ever-smaller niche demos that TV offers…

Anyway, marketers, you’re safe. All those dollars you already spend on diverse forms of advertising on diverse digital and other platforms (such as TV, out-of-home, print); all that other stuff you do that isn’t really just advertising and that you’ve always thought was still, yes, marketing — that is to say, “marketing as we know it,” you know, email, video, lead gen, SEO/SEM, and Social Media, etc. — you’ll still be doing all that in 2017, too. Because, however many and disruptive the changes will be over the next couple of years, “marketing as we know it” will NOT be over in 2016; and that’s because, however many and disruptive those expected and unexpected changes turn out to be, non sequiturs are just that, non sequiturs.

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2 Responses to Cue REM: It’s the end of the world as we know it…

  1. Mike Wise says:

    Too funny, Ken. Always a pleasure to read your stuff. Agree with your dissection of the post. But clearly the authors were going for a dramatic headline so as to ignite the blogosphere. Can I add one observation? Interruption marketing will be dead. Earned media will rule, mobile or otherwise. Thoughts?


    • khittel says:

      Can’t really agree. There will always be interruption — sometimes you just have to interrupt! With any luck, however, interruption will be done with more precision, relevance and, perhaps, wit and fun. But, yes, I do agree that marketers increasingly will have to earn attention. We live in an attention economy, after all, and the ultimate currency is precisely attention.


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