01 October 2009

Agency + Client = great IMC

My previous post explained how Agency + Agency + Agency = great IMC. Today's formula is Agency + Client = great IMC.

It's a pretty simple formula, unlike the sampling of IMC processes featured in the image to the right!

One of our clients allowed us to handle a "through the line" assignment. In other words we are handling all channels including digital, shopper marketing, traditional advertising, etc. (We don't offer public relations so the client's usual agency is helping us out there.) This makes it a pure agency/client partnership since we must manage everything together.

It's been a fun yet demanding project, only in part because of the full range of channels involved. The heaviest lift has been the strategic part, just as it is on any project. If you get the strategy right, the execution should flow pretty well. This principle applies even more on a full IMC program.

Here were some of the steps involved.

What does success look like? The client gave us a sales goal, but it's not practical to simply declare "we will sell x million dollars in Year I." We must leverage what's exciting and relevant about the product. In this particular case we realized from the start that consumers would need to be able to pick up the product and try it - just driving awareness with :30 TV spots or explaining the product in longer-form communication wouldn't suffice.

How will we measure success? Here again the sales goal wasn't enough. We needed to project how many people we could incite via product experience and how much we could rely on simple awareness methods. Here I must point out something about Draftfcb: much of the press coverage discusses the fact that we offer all services under one roof, but our real power is in the marriage of creativity and accountability. Our Customer Intelligence (analytics) department played a key role here.

What's the strategy? Let's face it, many of us write our strategies according to the disciplines we know best. A TV brief, a promo brief, a digital brief -- they all focus on their own discipline. We had to write a channel-neutral strategy if we wanted a channel-neutral creative platform and a channel-neutral communications plan. To that point, every stage of this journey I'm describing was managed together by a core team: a creative, a strategic planner, a media planner, a data analyst and an account person. We kept each other honest along the way. Experts in the various channels joined us later.

What's the creative platform? Or, to use a common term you read about, what's the Big Idea? We dedicated a team of creatives with experiences in different channels to work exclusively on this project for a full week. They created a dozen ideas, three of which we presented to the client, and one of which we all agreed was the most powerful.

What channels should we use? Another way to ask this might be: "We have a Big Idea but where do we put it?" We couldn't create a TV ad or even a shelf talker until we had established the right channels and the roles for each. Similar to our cross-agency project, it was critical to have a budget that was completely open with no percentages pre-assigned to ads, promos, etc. We had one big pile to allocate in the way we thought would have the most impact.

What happened next? It's still happening. The channel plan was 90% agreed upon in the past few weeks, enough that we could finish executing creative work. This afternoon we'll finalize the shopper marketing plan in a meeting with the brand manager and the sales director.

One last thing: thanks to my client for their strong participation in each of the steps described above. They and we loved the sense of partnership that came from creating something together.

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