To be ‘malcolmed’ or to be ‘dinosaured’ – which hurts you the most?

I’ve been consulting occasionally to a friend of mine since she started her business 21 years ago – both paid and unpaid advice – and have written copy, newsletters, ads, emails, managed PPC, SEO, built websites for her and more.

The marketing mix has evolved from one of mail, telephone, fax, advertising, events and publicity, to one of websites, email, mail, social media, SEO, PPC, publicity, events and limited advertising.

The business is now a pure online retailer. So in simple terms, it can only grow if the site visits continue to increase and those visitors convert to customers.


One thing we learned early-on about this category, was that press advertising rarely paid for itself in terms of leads or sales – we did a lot of testing. And we also learned that publicity in the form of articles in newspapers, magazines and radio interviews always generated sales.

This of course has evolved online. Now, publicity in the form of articles in paid online media, as well as earned media such as reviews by bloggers, generate lots of leads and sales. The long tail of some of these articles continue to generate leads to the website. We know this through the simple wonders of the website analytics.

A couple of years ago she launched a complementary brand in a growth segment. A creative team developed some very good brand imagery that is used on the website, delivery vehicles and in a press ad. It features a hunky bloke, a headline and URL. The press ad has run about ten times over a couple of years in a colour magazine insert in a weekend newspaper.

As you would know, the cost for a small business to continuously invest in creating a desired brand image via paid advertising is never cheap and often unaffordable. Other tactics are usually more profitable. Even advertising agencies don’t do brand advertising for their own agencies – here’s why.


And the cost versus return of the press advertising has been concerning my friend, who naturally, would like to see more sales as a result of her advertising investment – particularly given previous experience.

I made the simple suggestion of giving people a reason to visit the website – test an offer in the ad to see if it increases site visits and sales. It’s marketing 101 – easy to track and is used by every successful online retailer on the planet – so I cannot claim proprietary IP:)

Even luxury brands like Tiffany offer incentives in press ads to encourage website visitors – in this case it’s complimentary shipping.


Cheap Tiffany Jewelry, Discount Tiffany Jewelry On Sale]
Tiffany also make offers on their site – they know that wealthy people love offers

As you know dear reader, every marketing message is a brand message in the mind of the customer. And interestingly, prior to the internet, research revealed that brands using press ads with coupons, were regarded as more credible than brands whose ads didn’t include them. These days I’d suggest the same applies to press ads with search boxes or offering white papers versus those without them.

But you only know this stuff if you’ve tasted blood on the job, or if you study the marketing and advertising industry thoroughly. I teach brand strategy at university, given I’ve spent my whole career marketing all manner of brands. Things such as the body language of your message are important to understand when you are educating our future advertising legends.

My friend briefed the brand creative team to test an offer. Here’s their response:

We can sort out your ad for you but just so you know, it sounds like you’ve been ‘Malcolmed’ again. If the ad isn’t pulling as many heads as you would like, perhaps we need to add another ‘hunk’ into the mix. It’s a strong campaign and will only get stronger with a refresh.

To say my friend was stunned would be an understatement.

Like most marketers, I was under the impression the old dinosaurs of brand advertising were extinct. You need way more than the simple skills of creating brand ads to survive in advertising today.


On which planet does changing the (fully clothed) talent in a single brand ad (it’s not a campaign) increase traffic to an online retailer’s website? How could anyone with an ounce of marketing knowledge advise a client to replace the talent to grow business?

So dear reader, with humble respect, I ask you a simple question:

Would you rather be ‘malcolmed” and get valuable advice on how to grow your business profitably, or would you prefer to be “dinosaured‘ and rely on changing the talent in a brand ad to do it?

Mate – the market can’t wait to see our press ad so just stick a new bloke in the shot

Anyway, I’m off to trademark “to be malcolmed” – who knows, give it some digi-spin, write a book about it and I could be traveling the world key-noting seminars as I explain this new digi-phenomenon?

To be malcolmed or not to be malcolmed, let’s make that the question – or maybe even a hashtag:


I could build a brand around this…where’s that creative team?


  1. Being “malcolmed” sounds pretty painful! 🙂 Compared to the alternative, however…

    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised by the comment from the so-called “creatives”. Reminds me a little of John Carlton’s story about how when he started out he read all the classics, assuming that everyone in the biz would have read the likes of Caples and Hopkins. Turns out, nobody in the agencies had heard of them!

    I recall a similar response at a Sydney event you and Drayton held a few years back.

    You’ve commented on this “obstinate stupidity” in mainstream advertising before and it seems to persist, despite the best efforts of people like yourself and the great Bird.

    Look forward to seeing the new “malcolmed” logo and thanks for the post!

    • Hey Kevin
      You’d be amazed at how few people working in advertising have never studied anything about advertising. They believe “I work in an agency therefore I am”. It’s the same as thinking you can become a brain surgeon by hanging around the casualty ward.

  2. One more great post Malcolm. Thanks for sharing your insights and experience in the industry!

  3. Oh so true Malcolm. The classic argument for why throwing money (and a strategy with more holes than swiss cheese) at the problem is rarely based on common sense and experience. Maybe the agency should be “malcolmed” ? Nice post (and hope this finds you well 🙂 ).

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