Yesterday morning, I read the Sunday paper to take a break from work on a three and one-half month video project. I was beginning to relax when I found an article, The Do it Yourself Economy, by Thomas Friedman, New York Times columnist and Oracle General of the United States. In it, Friedman explains how how his childhood friend’s marketing business has been able to become “radically more productive” during the “Great Recession” despite severe downsizing by using “low-cost, high powered innovation technologies . . . plus cheap connectivity” to deliver superior results.
Friedman’s nationwide audience was treated to a too-good-to-be-true story (the usual stuff of B2B blog posts, e-zine articles and white papers) claiming that free Internet tools can enhance any company’s marketing the same way the $9.99 massage belt can eliminate a middle-age paunch without diet or exercise. The accuracy of the analogy sums up the value of Friedman’s theory.
Friedman calls this do-it-yourself economy the “Great Inflection.” I have no idea what that means, but I have been in marketing since before Gore invented the Internet and currently use all tools he describes as marvelous. They do not change the apples-to-apples skill requirements and costs of producing excellent sales and marketing. His claim that the “client got a better product for less money” because of free Internet tools is ridiculous.
If Friedman’s goal was to tell his general readership how technology has changed the way marketing is done, he only touched the surface. Besides, the general public doesn’t care about that. If his goal was to plug his “childhood friend Ken Greer’s” “radically downsized” marketing agency, he did a great job of that. But, the cheaper-yet-better theory has no legs and he’s been hoodwinked if Greer convinced him that free Internet tools are enabling struggling agencies and businesses to create cutting-edge marketing.
Greer claims, and Friedman echoes, that for a budget “about 20% of what we would normally charge,” a client received a better promotional video because:
- The script was developed and approved using a box.net collaborative tool. Well, if an online tool enabled Greer and his clients to create a superior script by committee, his copywriter should have been downsized long before the “Great Recession.” Come on Tom. You are a writer.
- They had no budget for a live video shoot or stock photography, so they pulled all of the images from istockphoto.com. I have done that often and it is a viable option, but don’t believe for a minute that royalty-free images deliver “better quality.” Greer also tells Friedman that these cheap tools allowed him to focus on “his value add: imagination.” While I support the notion that hunger can benefit creativity, spending many tedious hours groping through istockphoto and similar sites for cheap pictures does not feed the imagination.
- I agree completely with Greer on the benefits of online voice over services. No one should ever have to waste time in a recording studio. Greer used voices.com, where interested talent bid for the job. I like VoiceTalentNow.com, which has flat rate fees. But, voice over costs are never a huge percentage of production budgets.
My purpose is not to bash Friedman, even though I’ll always wonder how deeply he examines his other sources. My concern is the Internet economy’s “Great Lie” claiming technology allows people lacking skill and talent to be competitive in business. The ways that professionals do things have been changing, and that has included certain efficiencies, but the rules of life have not. You get what you pay for.