This morning’s Today Programme ran a brief segment on David Ogilvy, to consider whether his ideas are still relevant to modern advertising.

Yes, said former account director and IPA President Nicola Mendelsohn; not really, said creative Sir John Hegarty. They did at least agree on the importance of a Big Idea.

So much, so obvious. But inevitably the discussion then turned to the power of social media and its apparent ability to magnify Ideas of the Big variety.

Mendelson waxed lyrical about social media’s ability to engage and emote. Hegarty brought up his recent Yeo Valley campaign and pointed to its success.

Well, yes, maybe – for a consumer brand like Yeo Valley. But even in consumer markets, viral success stories happen no more than 2 or 3 times a year.

We’ve yet to come across a single example in B2B marketing.

It’s the old dichotomy at work. Some products – charities, for example – have intrinsic interest (that’s why they win a disproportionate number of advertising awards). It’s much harder to attract attention when you’re trying to sell roof hatches to a building contractor. You can only engage with these people by being relevant and focused on their needs.

Our view is that social media – as promoted by the many ‘expert’ ‘consultants’ who nowadays abound – is rarely relevant to the B2B marketeer.

Likes on Facebook don’t correlate to real sales. A professional buyer doesn’t want a ‘conversation’ with your brand and he’ll laugh at you if you try to trivialise his purchase by desperately seeking something viral.

The web is the world’s most important marketing medium. The web contains lots of social media.

That doesn’t mean the two things are necessarily related.

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