Here’s Why Mark Ritson Is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong About Gary Vee

What happens when a classically trained brand marketer picks apart the tactics of one today’s hottest business gurus? In Marketing Is Broken #16, we look at how even the best traditional marketers can get confused by how digital media works.
11/30/2018

Not too long ago, an article caught our attention from Marketing Week’s top branding columnist, Mark Ritson entitled, “Gary Vaynerchuk Is Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong About Media.”

While the headline may have been a little vague, I quickly got the sense that the author was not a fan of Vaynerchuk, also known as Gary Vee to his fans.

Ritson went on to attack Gary Vee’s thoughts on TV, social media and consumer behavior in general when it comes to advertising, but in the process got a few of the marketing guru’s intended teachings wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, right.

This week for our deep dive topic, we explore an interesting hypothetical battle between marketing book smarts and the street smarts of growth hacking.

First off, just who are these guys and why so many wrongs?

For starters, the author of the article, Mark Ritson, has a PhD in Marketing, just won B2B columnist of the year for his work on Marketing Week, and has consulted for super brands such as Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, and Pepsi, to name a few.

Gary Vee’s larger-than-life personality helped him turn his family’s $3M wine business into a $60M cash cow for Vaynerchuk’s multiple extensions of his personal media brand, all of which center around him advocating for the most straightforward tactics for entrepreneurs and startups to grow their businesses.

One may have the pedigree, but the other’s track record for growth shouldn’t be ignored. Is there a chance here that Ritson could be the one who is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong?

Let’s take a closer look at the five things that old school marketers about new school growth hackers.

1. Where to spend media dollars

First, Ritson took issue when Vaynerchuk said in a talk that he’d spend his marketing budget on a SuperBowl commercial, Facebook in-stream ads and Instagram ads.

He says, “the idea that this would ‘literally be your entire spend’ is hilariously wrong-headed.”

That’s where Ritson may have forgotten what it’s like to be a startup with limited ad spend.

When it comes to Gary Vee’s audience, his suggestions actually make fantastic sense.

Facebook instream ads are cheap and an excellent way to test for product-market fit in a paid setting. Influencer marketing is one of the best ways to build authority for brands that don’t have any early on. And the SuperBowl commercial would generate more reach than any other single marketing tactic.

I’d have to say the first point goes to Gary Vee.

2. Television viewing habits

Next, Ritson says that Gary Vee is wrong that nobody watches TV anymore.

Ritson cited a talk from Gary Vee in which he said, ‘“70% or 80%” of the population don’t even have the chance to see a TV ad and that, as a result, the $80bn spent this year in America is wasted.’

He then went on to chide Gary for using his own experiences to justify his argument. While I agree that your gut feeling should be heavily fact-checked, I think Gary is actually right.

Consider this. Charter Communications, Comcast, and DirecTV collectively lost more than 400,000 customers in the first quarter of 2018 to over-the-top (OTT) services like SlingTV.

While it may not be entirely true that “nobody watches TV anymore,” investing in cable TV advertising is like investing in coal. Yeah, we still use it, but you’re not going to find the future there.

Again, the point goes to Gary Vee.

3. Advertising vs. Media

Third, Ritson goes on to insult Vaynerchuk’s thinking by saying that, “his next mistake is using the undergraduate assumption that the only attention that matters is active.”

He explains that advertising is, “unwelcomed, unwanted and it interrupts the high-involvement content we choose to consume” and therefore it doesn’t matter if it is partially seen or consumed.

That’s perhaps the biggest mistake that Ritson and all old school marketers are making these days.

Ritson looks at the content Gary Vee is creating and saying, “This guy doesn’t know advertising.” When in reality, Ritson somehow fails to realize or acknowledge that Gary Vee isn’t creating advertising. He’s creates media. And that comes with an entirely different rulebook. When you create media, active attention is the goal, first and foremost.

Again, point Vaynerchuk.

4. TV vs. OTT

Fourth, Ritson says that Gary Vee is wrong about traditional television companies being displaced eventually by OTT advertising options via the Internet.

He says, “Rarely are incumbent media like radio or cinema completely destroyed and replaced by a new medium.”

Compare the market share of radio and TV advertising revenue in the 1980’s to the 20-teens and go ahead and try to tell me that the Internet hasn’t “completely destroyed” the old mediums.

I guess it may depend on definitions there, but in my book, it’s four-nothing, Gary Vee.

5. Creating content brands

And finally, Ritson dismissed Vaynerchuk’s thinking that brands shouldn’t be rushing to create their own content brands.

He says that “there is no evidence that media like outdoor are losing out to social media.”

Apparently, Ritson doesn’t consider the millions of free views on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram that come from having an amazing content brand. And not just when they’re published. Content marketing comes with annuities that traditional media buyers just can’t fathom.

An ad buy lasts a quarter. A blog post is the gift that keeps on giving. Final point goes to Gary Vee.

So what should you take away from all of this to become a better marketer?

Ultimately, both of these guys are really smart and Ritson did make excellent points along the way about advertising. But when Mark Ritson criticizes Gary Vee, he’s looking through the lens of an advertiser and that’s the problem.

Gary Vee is a media brand and he not only plays by the laws of new media, in some cases he’s even making them.

As a marketer, as you gain knowledge, be conscious of when your experience might be helpful and when they might be a source of bias that works against you. Take the best of everything you hear, experiment with it, and reach your own conclusions using the metrics you have in place.

And that’s how you can help fix marketing. We’ll see you next time.

Author: Josh Braaten

CEO - Brandish Insights

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