Unbound Marketing

I recently attended one of those ubiquitous presentations on Internet marketing. This one, hosted by marketing agency HubSpot was on “inbound marketing.” It was one of those real world imitations of a webinar, except they give you sandwiches.

The argument was familiar. The presenter proclaimed that he used double email spam filters, caller ID, the Do Not Call Registry, listened to an iPod rather than radio, had removed himself from mailing lists, and watched TV via Tivo so he could skip the ads. As such, he asserted that marketers can’t reach him (and by implication can’t reach most other customers) through advertising via these “outbound” media. Therefore the alternative – “inbound” marketing – is the way to go. Specifically, Hubspot recommends a marketing mix including their proprietary SEO/SEM service while curtailing what they call “outbound marketing.” Outbound includes such mundane media as broadcast, cable, direct mail, print, and display advertising.

Certainly these are tough times for media and their customers, the advertisers. TNS media estimates that total ad spending declined 14% in the first Quarter of 2009 vs. 2008. Not all media revenue declined at the same rate. For example, network TV was down 4.2%, local newspaper down 14.3%, while ads in national magazines declined 20.6%. Even Internet advertising declined 5% after five years of steady growth, as the chart from the Internet Advertising Bureau shows. As in the past recession, advertising will probably increase as the economy recovers.

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Do these declines validate the inbound model? Neither they nor evidence presented by Hubspot get us there. Advertising is not static and it’s becoming ever harder to filter and avoid. Use a DVR, digital video recorder, such as a Tivo to skip ads and the shows have product placements. Get TV programming through web sites, such as hulu, and ads, which can’t be skipped, are embedded. Use social networks like Facebook and MySpace, and ads have crept in.  Listen to podcasts or internet radio like Pandora or Sticher – you guessed it – ads.

The media landscape is changing. Advertising is evolving too, but it’s not going away.