My new column is live at The Drum:

I bet Lord Simon Wolfson a pint that Next will return ad spend to television by the end of next year.

Last week, the UK fashion retailer announced that it will double its digital advertising spend in 2019 while cutting print, TV and direct mail budgets in half. A Next spokesperson told me that only Wolfson, the chief executive, can comment to the media and that he was unavailable. As a result, I have no knowledge of the brand’s exact reasoning and plans. But I will make an educated guess on what will happen.

Next will become the latest company to fall victim to the online vanity metrics and delusions of digital grandeur that harm brands and decrease sales.

“If you emphasise vanity metrics such as likes and followers, you can easily lose sight of metrics that show how marketing campaigns and programmes deliver against the overall marketing strategy and business goals such as revenue growth,” Gartner senior research analyst Anna Maria Virzi said.

“There’s a finite amount of time in a day. Time spent on vanity metrics takes time away from more productive endeavours, such as tracking metrics that link marketing activity to business outcomes.”

Next is repeating a common mistake

Just look at recent history. Procter & Gamble cut digital media spend by 50% last year and saw a 2% increase in sales. Taco Bell moved ad spend away from digital and back towards TV. So did Turner.

In March 2017, Adidas chief executive Kasper Rorsted announced that the brand was moving ad spend from TV to digital. What happened? Quarterly revenue fell from €5.68bn in September 2017 to €5.26bn in June 2018. That is a loss of €420m. (Adidas did not respond to requests for comment.)

Take a look at another fashion company. Here in Israel, I tend to buy clothes at Castro. Yes, I usually make the purchases on the store’s website and ship the items to my flat. But the online purchases at the end happened only because of the offline marketing at the beginning.

Castro has always known the value of TV, print, and outdoor. (I had seen the ads for years before starting to shop there. ) Here is an example of the elements of a past campaign with future Wonder Woman Gal Gadot. (I will reserve comment on “Jeanius.”)

Yes, Castro has a YouTube channel and Facebook page. But people, in general, do not actively follow brands on social media. People follow friends, family members, politicians, entertainers, celebrities and sports teams instead. A 2017 CivicScience survey found that 45% of Americans have never bought anything as a result of social media advertising.

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