Advertising Comes LAST?!

There’s no question that Social Media has complicated things in the marketing world.  The problem with complexity is that it too often leads to analysis paralysis. Sometimes you need to see concepts broken down to their simplest terms to come to grips with them.

That’s why I was glad to see this chart from Forrester’s Sean Corcoran (h/t Dave Fleet), which breaks down the fundamentals of “Owned Media, Paid Media and Earned Media” …


The most fascinating aspect of Sean’s analysis is the evolving definition of the role of Paid Media.  Sean posits that Advertising is shifting from being the “foundation” of a corporate marketing strategy to a “catalyst that feeds owned media and creates earned media.”

In other words, in the new era, ADVERTISING COMES LAST.

Advertising comes AFTER the corporation has created an ecosystem for its owned media channels (e.g., a blog, a Twitter handle, a Facebook Fan Page).

Advertising comes AFTER the corporation has an established rapport with its fan base, bloggers, and traditional media contacts.

Advertising comes AFTER relationships.

Tellingly, the “Challenges” that Corcoran points out re: Paid Media — “clutter, declining response rates and poor credibility” are all ameliorated if the brand takes the Awareness Scale approach in which Social Media feeds both PR and Advertising, both of which then serve to catalyze fresh brand conversations, amongst people who are predisposed to do so.

With consumer and media relationships in place, the advertisements are not rebuffed but are embraced and carried forward by online enthusiasts. Sayonara, “clutter.”  So long, “declining response rates.” Bon voyage, “poor credibility.”

I’ll admit — if I were running an Advertising Agency, I’d be nonplussed by the breezy way in which a Forrester Research analyst essentially downgraded my industry from “foundational” to, let’s face it, a secondary role.  But we all have our challenges to face, eh?  This one’s not insurmountable!

I’ll have more to say about Corcoran’s conclusions in the days ahead.  Meanwhile, it’s our first piece of evidence that 2010 will not lack for interesting ideas and debate!

Posted on: January 4, 2010 at 10:22 am By Todd Defren
64 Responses to “Advertising Comes LAST?!”


  • I find the absence of mention of mainstream media/journalism in this chart interesting. That’s what I always think of first when I think of earned media–have newspapers/magazines so lost their journalistic prowess that they no longer merit a mention?

  • John MCtigue says:

    I’m not so sure it’s the Ad agencies that don’t get it. For us it’s our clients who are still living in the 90′s and instead of listening to us about what works and what doesn’t, still insist on mass marketing as the Holy Grail. So we spend too many thought cycles trying to bring them into this century which takes away from the creative process. Creativity is still King, but now we need to focus on one-on-one relationships instead of media.

  • Rex Riepe says:

    It’s a priority thing: To fill a bucket, put in big rocks first, then the pebbles, then the sand. Never figured advertising for the sand, but it’s an interesting argument. It’s certainly already the order of operations for a lot of smaller companies trying to get by on a budget.

    Looking forward to your next post on this.

  • Sean corcoran says:

    Hi Todd,

    Happy New Year.

    Thanks for posting the chart, I always love this conversation. I don’t think it’s any secret that relationships and positive word of mouth are much more valuable than ad impressions. The marketing world is shifting from push to pull and developing a solid foundation of relationships through earned and owned media is a key strategy moving forward. With that said, I want to be clear that Forrester is not predicting the death of paid media by any stretch. As Rick pointed out (and as the chart states), paid media still offers immediacy, scale and a certain level of control, so it will play a vital role moving forward. It just has to move over and work alongside the other media now. The best strategy is to find a way to get them to all work together in the optimal way.

    • Todd Defren says:

      Yep, absolutely agree, Sean. I believe Advertising has a bright future but a DIFFERENT ROLE than they’ve been accustomed to. That is still news to too many marketers. ;)

      Happy New Year to you, too! Thanks for stopping by.

  • I think with the ever increasing ways in which to bypass and skip over ads these days there is no question that advertising will no longer serve as the foundational piece, but a secondary piece used to reinforce the brand’s image.

  • Sue Spaight says:

    Well, as an (“integrated”) ad agency VP, I’m not nonplussed at all. I’m in total agreement. While there’s enough research on online advertising to demonstrate that advertising still has value in the mix (awareness, perception, search, and traffic), anyone that isn’t yet dealing with the fact that earned media and relationships are more trusted best wake up now.

    Thanks for sharing the chart, hadn’t seen that, and for the great summary.

  • Marty Thomas says:

    Another good way to give your response rates a boost is to use personal urls. An example of a Personal URL would be: and when “Jim” visits his personal url, the website will usually be customized to him. It also allows the marketer to track who is responding. Learn more at:

  • rICK MURRAY says:

    Hey Todd –

    Happy New Year.

    I think the chart begins to package the debate up nicely, but I still believe that in some (many?) cases, ads (or mass reach media in some capacity) have to play a — if not the leading role.

    Think about time sensitive markets where scale is the goal, and success or failure is measured in days or weeks. The now $1B franchise for Avatar comes to mind. So too do CPG brands in the process of launching a new item into the retail channel. Neither have the lucury of time to trust their franchise to grassroots momentum.

    Or do they?

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