29 September 2009

How multiple agencies produced an IMC program for their client

Yesterday we had the pleasure of co-presenting an IMC program to an important client.

“Co-presenting” means: us (the lead agency), the digital agency, the promotion agency, the shopper marketing marketing agency, and the public relations agency. That’s a lot of agencies. You’re probably thinking: What a disaster that must have been.

Actually it was a success. Together we showed them a single, simple idea that could drive the work of all the agencies, plus some examples of tactics showing how each agency would take the idea and run with it – all of us in the same direction.

How did we get to a successful meeting?

Strategic homework. Part of our job as the lead agency is to help the client develop new product ideas and understand the best way to sell them. This is a big responsibility requiring us to have deep knowledge of the consumer and the category in which we compete. You can’t just show up to a project – be it IMC or a single advertisement – and get to work.

Strong relationships and clear roles. Although we have a unique role in doing the strategic homework, we are part of a team supporting this client and we work assiduously to build team relationships. The client is paying for those resources, so why not leverage them? More than that we just believe everyone has something to contribute and should be respected on that basis. It’s important to note, however, that the resources can’t show up and cooperate without clear roles set by the client and accepted by the team. In this case, we led and the other agencies followed, in the same way team captains take the field with their teammates.

Know when to work together and when to work individually. Recently there was an article on how to conduct successful inter-agency brainstorms, and it was a painful read. We've all been there. The only thing the author left out was this piece of advice: Don’t do inter-agency brainstorms. In the project we presented yesterday, there were occasional touch points – some face-to-face, some via conference call – where we hashed out strategic direction. We would then go away and work, regrouping later to share what we had created. Because the strategy was sound and our relationships strong, the ideas followed – and so did the sense of cooperation.

We’re not done yet. The same client who established clear relationships was courageous enough not to preassign his marketing budget to the various channels (advertising, in-store, digital, etc.). That means I’ll be posting soon about channel-neutral planning, one of my favorite subjects.

24 September 2009

The History of the Ad Agency Business -- in one easy power point slide!*

Yes, that’s right: the history of the ad agency business in one easy power point slide. You can find it here on SlideShare. Open it in “Notes” view because the presentation itself is only visuals and the “Notes” are more or less my commentary whenever I present this to a live audience. Please feel free to share, use or improve upon it – just don’t try to claim authorship. In other words, socialize, don’t plagiarize.

* OK – it is a single slide, but it is also a “build” slide, so click and enjoy.

23 September 2009

Are you a specialist or a generalist?

Are you a specialist or a generalist? Whether you’re a brand manager, creative director, media planner or whatever, I argue that you can be both. If you are, then we can call you a “Renaissance Practitioner”.

My definition of a Renaissance Practitioner: A 21st Century marketing executive with experience in, knowledge of, or appreciation for the complete range of channels available. This person specializes in some channels and becomes a true generalist by working with other specialists on a team. Renaissance practitioners always work outside their comfort zone.

This is an obvious riff on the historical term “Renaissance Man”, which applied to people of that era who gained mastery, accomplishment or experience in a range of a dozen or so areas such as sport, language, science and so forth. To become a Renaissance Man was not the result of merely dabbling in different areas, and the same principle holds true for a Renaissance Practitioner.

You don’t get a diploma when you achieve this status. In fact you never really “achieve” this status; it is a journey not a destination. Here are some practical things to keep in mind.

Study hard. It is important to maintain a solid understanding of the various disciplines that can build your business, from the technicalities of digital media to the personal connections of experiential to the mass reach potential of television. Take the time to read and talk to discipline experts.
Be curious. You never finish studying. Many disciplines are evolving. “Shopper Marketing” has had more than one definition over the past three years. On top of that, new disciplines arise: I joined Twitter in April 2007 and no one knew what it was back then.
Know your consumer. You’re knowledgeable. You’re up to date. So what? None of what you know about the latest channels means anything unless you know your own consumer. This applies to any marketing or advertising executive. I’ll write more about this topic.
Be open to the right answer. If you nail the above points, you may arrive at a surprising answer. For decades we have supplied one of our clients with TV, Radio and Print. Last year we took a fresh look at the business and realized we had overlooked a digital solution. Even though we have extensive digital capabilities, we called a sister agency that happens to have the digital AOR assignment for the same client.
This leads to a final thought: business partnership. Renaissance Practitioners can better serve their clients with the right solutions for their business.

22 September 2009

Media Mavens vs. Spinoffs

Congratulations to my friend and colleague, Bob Bernstein, for being named a 2009 Media Maven.

One of the telling parts of the tribute: "(Draftfcb) never followed the media spinoff trend, a development that has helped them better align their creative messages with the places they put them."


Felicidades, Bob!

21 September 2009

"I don't know which half of my ad budget I'm wasting -- and I don't WANT to know!"

One of the enduring tales of 20th Century advertising was the client who said: "I know I am wasting half my advertising budget; I just don't know which half."

Direct marketers always knew what was wasted and what was working because their entire business model was based on sales performance.

According to this article from AdAge.com, a lot of modern marketers, including ones with strong direct marketing operations, still insist on wasting money.

Natalie Zmuda reports that despite incredible advances in our ability to analyze data, most marketers eschew the heavy lifting required to sift through the ones and zeroes and properly address their customers -- even/especially their best customers.

We have a similarly recalcitrant client and we've been bugging them for a while about this exact subject. It's good to know we aren't alone, but we will call them again today so we don't miss out on a couple of upcoming opportunities.

18 September 2009

What is Ad Majorem?

Thank you for visiting my blog, Ad Majorem. It’s a view from within a large agency, and how an executive there embraces the changes and challenges of modern marketing and advertising.

The title, Ad Majorem, is part of a familiar Latin phrase and loosely translates to English as “to the greater”. In other words, this time of change is actually an opportunity for better advertising: stronger consumer insights, more powerful ideas, channel-neutral marketing plans, and accountability so we know what sells and what doesn’t.

The “ad” in Ad Majorem means all marketing communications, from social media to direct mail to Internet gaming to television commercials. To most consumer audiences all of these are advertising. My professional experience in these channels allows me to provide a perspective that is part specialist, part generalist.

This is not the umpteenth blog devoted to emerging media and the exciting world of digital. The topic here is how to move clients' businesses forward regardless of media.

There is much talk that large ad agencies are in trouble today, in part because they do not recognize the need to change their business model from the old, familiar, mass media model. I will write about this situation since I work in a large agency, but the content should prove interesting for advertisers themselves, students, career hopefuls, critics, and of course my colleagues at agencies large and small.

Don’t come here for dirt, fear or loathing. The closest I’ll come to that is self-criticism of the marketing business. Occasionally I’ll stray into a review of a campaign but only for the purpose of discussing the overall state of the industry.

Please comment. Otherwise this wouldn’t be an honest look at an industry where communication with consumers should be two-way, not just one-way.

This brings me to Ad Majorem’s reason for being: To keep myself honest on embracing the challenges and changes of modern marketing. My hope is that you, too, will derive some professional growth from it.