So, when in January of this year he loudly complained about the digital advertising business to a conference everyone was startled.

“We have an antiquated media buying and selling system that was clearly not built for this technology revolution. We serve ads to consumers through a non-transparent media supply chain with spotty compliance to common standards unreliable measurement hidden rebates and new inventions like bot and methbot fraud.”

Control of digital marketing is largely in the hands of the two dominant companies Google and Facebook, who in the U.S. share about 60% of the total market and are by far the fastest growing. They call themselves technology businesses, but anyone in marketing knows very well that they are dependent on advertising fees for their income and are really media companies. I recently helped a student apply for a job at Facebook and all our discussion was about the advertising offers they have available for smaller businesses.

The problem of being a media business while trying to deny it has now surfaced as the inherent risks behind all that lack of transparency raised by Pritchard have been shown when company after company in the UK is pulling advertising away from Google and its YouTube subsidiary as they discover that their advertisements are being placed on unsuitable, often unsavoury, web pages.

All this highlights another problem which Pritchard also made. If you have a poor environment for communicating with your target audience, it appears to impact on your creativity; and great marketing will fail without proper market knowledge and great creative ideas.

Lack of marketing has diminished tanners and their product.

In the leather industry, the digital world has had limited impact at the tannery level as getting it to fit with the business to business environment is more difficult, and tanners generally remain insecure about what importance to give to marketing. This has diminished them and their product. The best online moves have been made by one or two of the chemical companies and those tanners with a finished product arm who have a need to address the final consumer.

The concept behind the digital approach is that you can focus in on lots of individual customers which the algorithms identify is likely to buy your product now. The databanks held by Google and Facebook are so extensive they have each and every one of us analysed to a level they can tell us what we will buy tomorrow. The recent news indicates this is quite untrue, and that what we do get is clouded in misinformation and risk.

Quite apart from what the damage of being wrongly placed can do to a brand, the whole problem with this supposedly laser efficient approach is that it does not build your brand in the penumbra of those who may not buy tomorrow, but possibly will in the future, or might influence those who will. So even before the murky actuality appeared questions were being asked.

Traditional advertising in magazines and on TV is not dead yet. There is certainly room for its clever use, and its combination social media. Marketing leather is not easy and consideration has to be given to the segmentation chosen to define targets and the best way to address them. For some companies, key account management is almost the sole method adopted, albeit often they do not realise that is what they are doing. For most a hybrid system is appropriate as in addition to key accounts they want to both build the brand and catch the more peripheral customer.

So, after many years of not seeing any print adverts for leather it was a delight to uncover one in the March issue of Aircraft Interiors International Magazine for Andrew Muirhead and Sons. An advert for aviation leather that plays on the durability and elegance that comes with well-engineered leather. It promotes the company well, and it also promotes leather produced by responsible tanneries. The laser precision promised by the Internet, but delivered by traditional means.

Mike Redwood

22nd March 2017

Follow Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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