Friday Fun: David Meerman Scott’s ROI Rant

DmscottI listened to this podcast excerpt yesterday and couldn’t help chuckling thoughout as David Meerman Scott calls bullshit on the perennial ROI question.  David is a friend and I’ve heard this schpiele before from him (usually quieter, but no less passionate): it’s definitely worth a listen.

And for the record, Mr. Meerman Scott is the author of Amazon’s top-selling books on PR/Marketing.  If the nation’s acknowledged authority is calling b.s. on a fundamental issue, it merits your attention.

Happy New Year, David.  Thanks from all of us, for keepin’ it real.

NOTE — for yet another ROI rant, from the reigning queen of all-things-measurement, check out this post by Katie Paine:  “Stop confusing ROI with results, and measurement with counting

Posted on: January 8, 2010 at 8:24 am By Todd Defren
30 Responses to “Friday Fun: David Meerman Scott’s ROI Rant”


  • David’s rant is on point. His continues to help us see that all marketing and PR activities contribute to moving the needle. We need to benchmark so we know where zero is and how long it takes us to get to 60 mph. Then we need to understand if interest translates to sales. If there are no sales but social media activity and other initiatives are producing interest, either the sales people are lazy or the products are terrible. And either way, there has to be change.

  • Jim jackson says:

    Way to go David. I hear so much about ROI and you are right it is about fear.

  • Can’t we all just get along? Enjoyed the rant and am also enjoying the tempest it the TwitterPot it seems to be inspiring.

    Look let’s just agree that having somebody in an organization pay attention to ROI – i.e. disciplined measurement of those cause-effect relationships that *can* be measured (and of course they can’t all be measured) – is important. Equally important are the people who focus on content and relationships as the important drivers of success. They’re both right.

    Having read a bit of David Meerman Scott’s stuff, I’d put him in the latter camp. And bravo. Keep up the fight!

  • Happy new year to you too Todd, and to all at Shift.

    John Heaney: Thanks for the comments. You’re obviously smarter than me on these things because I didn’t know what “specious” meant. Looked it up though and found the answer.

    According to Marriam Webster dot com, my accusation is one of these things:
    – having deceptive attraction or allure
    – having a false look of truth or genuineness : sophistic

    Okay, fine.

    In my experience, the best web marketing efforts I’ve studied in the past 15 years are not like a radio spot with a call to action. It is not “spend X and get Y.” Instead what works, in my experience, is putting out some amazing content that educates and informs. People talk about you in the first few days. Blogger link to you in the first few weeks. Your search engine rankings rise over the next month. The content lives on for a decade.

    People check you out and maybe buy something. You can measure what happens over time in sales, but it is not like a radio spot where it runs for a week, the call to action is an 800 number and we can find out how many people wanted the free alignment with the 4 new tires.

    The “Epic ROI Rant” post took me one hour – 40 minute podcast plus about 20 to write the post up, tweet it and a few other odds and ends. The Amazon rank for “The New Rules of Marketing & PR” has jumped since I posted it, so I am selling more books now than 30 hours ago. But am I selling more books because of that? Or because I spoke to 220 people at Harvard Business School last night? Or because I participated on the VisibleGains live TV show yesterday.


    And I have no intention of running my business in a way that I can measure that level of detail. And I recommend to people that they not do it either.

    If my wife says to me “why didn’t you have time to go to the bank?” And I say “cause I was working on a blog post that I felt was important” I don’t expect her to say “What was the ROI of that post?”

    BTW – I am not against measuring marketing. I measure all the time and recommend in my talks.

    However, I do say that when starting a web marketing initiative involving offering content to buyers (blog, YouTube vids, ebooks, etc) that they NOT have registration and therefore to start, we just CANNOT measure in the way that you are used to.

    If they say “NO” to starting something without ROI details in place, I think they are fearful, shortsighted, and resistant to new ideas. And that is who I was ranting to.


    • Kris C. says:

      David, regarding your wife asking about the blog post… someone doesn’t have to pose the question for there to be an answer. Of course you can and should know that you get a return on blogging – otherwise why not spend time playing golf?

    • With all due respect to David (sincerely) I’m shocked at this rant. Comparing the relative similarities of TV ad expenditures and “Guatemalans raking leaves” is simply bizarre.

      At the end of the day ALL activities in a public company — including the receptionist and the company plane — must directly or indirectly contribute to increasing shareholder value or they will eventually go away. This is why even sacred cows like corporate art collections and private executive dining facilities eventually bite the dust. There is an implied detractor from the bottom line even if there is no formal ROI calculation in place.

      I’m not saying that you have to measure the ROI to justify an activity (that may be too difficult or non-productive) but if you are spending money on a marketing activity you better at least have NFI’s in place that serve as an indicator of contribution to shareholder value.

  • I mostly agree with David, actually. Here’s my summary from a few months back:

  • John Heaney says:

    As much as I admire and respect David Meerman Scott, he’s just plain wrong on this issue. The question isn’t whether marketing is good or bad, or whether web-based marketing is good or bad. It’s a question of which marketing efforts generate the greatest impact. Companies do measure the impact of their billboards and television commercials. Not a single impression, but the effectiveness of an entire program. Thats how they know it works. Spending X on radio spots generates Y calls which results in Z sales. If Z is greater than X, then we know the program worked. If nobody measures anything, then w’re left manage by intuition and anecdote – hardly inspiring to any CEO. If you don’t know how to track results and measure ROI, learn. Check out Olivier Blanchard’s excellent series on his blog TheBrandBuilder. But don’t dismiss ROI or blame businesspeople’s insistence on demonstrating and proving the value of any marketing investment on fear. The accusation is specious and beneath you David.

    • mATT kAPLAN says:

      Look, David’s rant may have sounded extreme, but he obviously did it to make a point. Many of us who have worked in digital marketing for years are tired of the ROI question and the scrutiny that newer forms of marketing like social media and video are under. Just because something is online and highly measurable, doesn’t mean it must be held to higher standards than other options in the marketing mix. Is TV advertising measurable? Sure, in some obscure way – but if it were held to the same standards as social media, companies would never produce another spot again.

      If you’ve ever attended any of David’s lectures and looked around the room, you’d see that he is evangelizing to many executives who are still spending MILLIONS on traditional marketing programs, because that’s what they’ve always done. We need people like David to shake it up, to tell CEOs and marketers that the world has changed, that many of the marketing concepts they learned at business school are no longer valid, and that they need to start utilizing new marketing methods like online video and social media today.

      If anything, this rant proves David’s point. Look at how much discussion he’s generated without spending a dime on advertising.

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