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Saatchi & Saatchi Kevin Roberts UK

'Marketing is Dead' says Saatchi & Saatchi CEO - a response

By Danny Herbert | MD

April 26, 2012 | 4 min read

Yesterday, Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide proclaimed that 'marketing is dead' while spreaking at the annual IOD conference in London. Judging by the response The Drum has recieved to his claim, many are unsure as to what he was trying to say, while others have also agreed with his statement. Danny Herbert, managing director of Derbyshire strategy and marketing agency Spring Thinking, offers his own thoughts on Roberts' comments.

Boy, Kevin is "down with the kids", isn't he? Although I have to say he isn't boring. And he understands PR.

‘Strategy is dead’: entertaining, but bollocks. Most people can't even define the word (I've actually got a training course on this very subject on my website). This week the government was accused of not having a strategy, by somebody who went on to talk about their “lack of clear aims”. It isn't the same thing. Anyway, it's perfectly possible to have a genuinely-strategic approach to selling your products without falling foul of the errors Kevin suggests.

‘Marketing is dead’: entertaining, but bollocks. A useful definition of marketing is' finding out what people want or might want and selling it to them at a profit’. Most of Kevin's speech consists of advising us all how to best do this, by avoiding things that Everybody Doesn't Want and giving Everybody what Everybody Does Want.

So the very least we have to question the Saatchi CEO’s definition of ‘marketing’.

And here, of course, lies the point of the whole thing. What Kevin would doubtless like clients to believe is that the science, rationality, and thinking part of the selling process is all dead. (And the nasty research, too, ooh, especially that.) All you poor clients can do is turn over your money to companies who will provide you with amazing creative ideas , even if bereft of any consistent direction or scale, so as to attempt to distract the mass of novelty- dazed goldfish allegedly inhabiting the modern marketplace. Coincidentally, raw ideas are pretty much the one currency which the advertising agency, as opposed to a raft of other allied service providers, still holds.

Now I'm not even sure if the points he makes apply to the majority of under-30’s. But let's not forget that the majority of consumers in the current EU marketplace, at least, are middle-aged or older. Go find some statistics for the dropout from things like Twitter within these demographics. Ask yourself if they are really in the market for a constant barrage of unrelated, "new" stuff, out of which they will decode your company’s offer and grow to love you. They aren't. They are in the market for good stuff, well presented. You can still do that strategically, using a lot of traditional marketing thinking.

So, the sky is not falling. Funky, Nathan Barley advertising companies are not your only salvation, although they have their place. And Kevin is flying a bit of a kite, I think, although he sounds the sort of bloke it would be good to go for a pint with - certainly wouldn't be dull.

Saatchi & Saatchi Kevin Roberts UK

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