One of my favourite books is by Eric Durschmied, it’s called ‘The Hinge Factor’.
It’s about small events, that changed the course of history.
One of the chapters is called ‘Der Haltebefehl’.
In English that’s ‘The Order To Stop’.
It happened in France in 1940.
The Germans had beaten the French, and the British retreated to Dunkirk.
They sat on the beaches, defenceless, vulnerable, ready to be destroyed.
Guderian’s panzer army was about to kill or capture half a million men.
But, in desperation, a small force of British tanks attacked the German’s flank.
(The flank is the vulnerable part on the sides of an attack.)
Hitler remembered the First World War.
The terror of leaving the flanks exposed to counter-attack.
He ordered his entire army to stop and regroup.
To allow the flanks to be strengthened before they moved on.
So the German army waited.
While they waited the British army was evacuated from Dunkirk.
The army was re-equipped and sent to the Middle East.
Where it beat the Italian army.
So Hitler had to divert an entire German army to the Middle East, to support the Italians.
He also diverted one of his best generals, Rommel.
Equipment and men that would otherwise have been fighting the Russians.
Resources that might have changed the outcome of the war.
But instead, they were sent to fight the army that he let escape at Dunkirk.
So “Der Haltebefehl” is remembered by history as a bad judgement.
A small event that much bigger events hinged upon.
Made by a man who wasn’t looking at the overall picture.
Just allowing one tiny piece to influence his decision, and assume a value out of all proportion to its actual importance.
Because, if we just look at a tiny part of what’s happening through a jeweller’s eyepiece, we miss the big picture.
And if we misunderstand what’s really going on, how it all fits in, we make bad decisions.
That’s how I feel about advertising.
We need to constantly keep the big picture in mind.
Nothing does the entire job on its own.
But if you listen to the new-media gurus, that’s what you’d believe.
That you never need any other form of advertising except online, digital, social-media, anything that comes over your laptop or iPhone.
But is that true?
See, for a successful sale you normally need three things
Awareness. Footfall. Conversion. (Whether actual or metaphorical.)
First off, advertising itself is usually about awareness.
It lets people know your product or brand exists, it piques their interest.
And people can’t buy it unless they know it exists.
Next comes footfall.
Retail is footfall.
If we don’t have a sales outlet, people can’t find it.
So we need to put the customer in the vicinity of the product.
And, once they’ve found it and tried it, the third thing needs to happen.
Point of sale, packaging design, product design, is conversion.
That’s where the rubber meets the road.
Everything up to that point is foreplay.
But new-media advocates don’t see it that way.
They think everyone does the entire process online.
You never need to move from in front of your laptop.
A popup ad makes you aware of something.
So you research it.
You go to Twitter, you go to blogs.
When you’re intrigued you go to the website.
If you’re convinced you click on the ‘purchase’ button.
Then just sit and wait for the your purchase to arrive.
Well, maybe that’s true for Amazon.
I certainly buy books there.
But I buy a lot more books walking around Waterstones.
So not all traditional retail outlets are dead.
Undoubtedly, online is like a virtual shop.
But you still need advertising to make you aware of what’s in the shop.
To drive you there in the first place.
That’s two things advertising does very well in conjunction with online.
Awareness and footfall.
Used intelligently they work very well together.
And understanding how everything fits together allows us to make the best decisions.
The digital revolution will change everyone’s life the way Caxton’s printing press did.
But Caxton’s printing press didn’t stop the need for thinking.
Creativity suddenly had more possibilities than ever.
Advertising was born once the printing press happened.
And advertising grew when newspapers and posters happened.
And grew even more when film, radio, and television happened.
Digital, online, social-media won’t be the death of advertising.
It just means there will be more than ever.
We don’t quite know how we’re going to use it all yet.
But we’ll discover that.
The one great advantage new-media has over traditional media is, it’s free.
The only cost is brains.
If you’ve got brains you can generate massive media coverage from very little.
But that’s always been true.
So we need to stand back and take a look at the big picture.
See where it all fits in, how it works together.
That way we’ll get the right result from the hinge factor.
Not the wrong one.