27 February 2010

Should ad agencies and media agencies re-bundle?

This coming week in San Francisco the 4A's will combine two traditionally separate conferences into one event.

The first of the two pieces is the annual leadership conference, formerly the "management" conference, which they've been holding since 1917. The second is the media conference which dates back to the mid-1990s. The conference agenda is here. You can read a bit more in this NYTimes.com column by Stuart Elliott.

A bit of history is in order

What's missing from the Times piece is the observation that the 4A's media conference started right around the same time that ad agencies spun off their media departments into separate companies such as Starcom and Universal McCann. Under the rules of Ye Olde Marketing such spin-offs were possible because so much of the work was in TV or Radio commercials or print advertising. The ad agency and the media agency could work in silos because both processes ended up with a tape being sent to the networks.

Obviously that's not the case anymore. Tom Carroll, outgoing chairman of the 4A's and President-CEO of TBWA, said: "The idea of having separate conferences just isn’t reflective of the realities of the business today. It’s better to get everyone in one room because we all have the same issues and should be working together on them."

There's an elephant in that "one room"

Should ad agencies and media agencies re-bundle? It would be fun if someone asked the question this week in San Francisco. In the unlikely event someone did ask, the question probably wouldn't attract much discussion. There are too many egos and P&Ls at stake, and in fairness, perhaps a few client conflicts as well.

It's too bad. The industry needs this kind of discussion. We have seen at our shop the benefit of having media planning within the agency for some clients even when buying is done elsewhere. Given some of my recent experiences with channel-neutral planning (here and here) it seems impossible to create advertising for any medium in a silo separated from media strategy.

Jumping from silo to silo

One other interesting story to watch will be that of Nick Brien, listed on the conference agenda as the head of IPG's Mediabrands, the company that includes Universal McCann and Initiative Media. His title on the conference agenda is ironic, because just last month he was named CEO of...


Back to the future...

We just added Creativity Unbound to the blogroll you see in the right-hand column. It's timely because blogger Edward Boches just posted about the Forrester study on the future of ad agencies. You can read his thoughts here.

24 February 2010

Global assignments are complex, so keep 'em simple

We briefed an international team of creative people today for a global assignment. Some of the group shared the conference table in Chicago and others participated via conference call from Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Milan and other places. I've led or joined many such assignments and they're a lot of work and a lot of fun. I thrive on the diversity of perspectives brought from different languages, cultures and markets.

Yes, markets. Although anthropology drives much of what we do, our briefs are based on market situations. Can we suggest new users for an existing product? Does our new product fulfill an unmet need? How can we increase market share? We are also measured on these questions based on what happens in the market.

International assignments are complicated more by market situation than language or culture. We can always adapt packaging and retail material by dropping in the relevant alphabet or language, or write TV copy without on-camera dialogue. The more difficult task is to sell a particular product that may have a different frame of reference from country to country. It's underneath everyone's kitchen sink in Argentina but a completely new product in Thailand. (This is less of a problem when the global assignment sells the global brand itself versus a specific product.)

I've seen a lot of briefs in my career that were decidedly not brief. There are many reasons for this -- unsound strategy, unclear proposition, poor writing -- but it's an especially fatal mistake when briefing a global assignment. The language of the brief must be clear, concise and unambiguous. I've posted about this before, here and here.

Clear writing and clear thinking go together -- in any language.

What does the future look like?

Over the past day or so there was an interesting conversation underneath an article about what advertising agencies will look like in 2015.

The article itself starts by saying "the world of advertising is in flux." True. We can all agree that change is a reality.

The discussion broke out over the subject of analytics. Some people embraced analytics as a valuable tool. On the other hand, one person said "analytics is just another word for bean counter".

In the days of Ye Olde Marketing, my life in large agencies was about strategy and creative. Now it's about strategy, creative and analytics. It's much easier to know which half of my budget is being wasted. (I've written about this here and here.)

Back on analytics, a comment by "Bruce" of Toronto is worth repeating here: "I, too, agree [analytics is important]. The problem will be as it has always been, though: What to measure? Advertising's job usually isn't to sell, as a matter of fact. Usually, advertising's job is to predispose a consumer to buy, with the sale being closed by another more immediate brand experience. Measurement will save this business if it's intelligent, and destroy it if it's nothing more than simplistic scorekeeping."

Bruce, I agree -- that's where the channel-neutral planning comes in. If the only tool we have is traditional advertising, all we can do is predispose a consumer to buy. If we plan the consumer's entire path to purchase, however, we can figure out how to predispose, incite -- and close the sale. The measurement will be clearer, too.

The 19 comments posted as of this writing may not be a scientific sample but they would seem to indicate that analytics is far from ingrained in agency culture today. In the future, it will be.

17 February 2010

In defense of Google, traditional advertiser

Today there was a post on AdAge.com's "Digital Next" section criticizing Google's Super Bowl ad, "Parisian Love".

The criticisms were: they didn't communicate their diversity of products, they didn't feature their display capability, they didn't show the user clicking on a nearby search ad -- they only showed someone searching for information.

I have a different view from my vantage point at a large but non-traditional agency.

Google's Super Bowl commercial was actually a 60-second demo of the search experience. Maybe there was a secondary objective to make them seem more cuddly and less dominating. In any case the focus on their core product was strategically perfect. The opposite case from last Sunday was Emerald Nuts/Pop Secret. Although Emerald's TV commercial was strategically unsound on its own, the overall integrated program was smart.

Google's commercial was much more focused -- and integrated. Seeing the Super Bowl commercial would lead the consumer to one place only -- and I doubt they'd need a URL to direct them.

It was an excellent use of traditional advertising by a new media juggernaut.

16 February 2010

comScore acquires ARS

Last week comScore announced its acquisition of ARSGroup, combining two well-known names in the measurement of advertising messages. You can read the basic news story here.

This is not a routine merger of two companies that offer the same services. ARS is known mainly for pre-testing of TV commercials, often in the form of animatics, while comScore is "the global source of digital market intelligence and the most preferred measurement service".

Naturally, much will be made about the new media testing company taking over the company that for decades has served Ye Olde Marketing.

There's another way to look at it, however. ARS is used mainly for measuring advertising before it is produced and goes on the air, where comScore focuses on consumer behavior in the market. More than the emergence of digital media, this signals the emergence of measurement and accountability.

By the way, the newly-merged partners wasted no time working together. Take a look at this post on comScore's blog written by an executive from ARS.

This is a development worth watching.

15 February 2010

Is Emerald Nuts?

Last week's Super Bowl advertising disappointed many of us. You can watch all the ads here and see a roundup of industry reaction here.

Emerald Nuts "Awesomer"

One of my personal disappointments was Emerald Nuts. It's a great brand that did some great advertising in past Super Bowls, notably the Robert Goulet ad. This year, however, their message was "Awesomer" but their strategy was not: Use the Super Bowl to tell people they can enjoy two kinds of snacks, Emerald Nuts and Pop Secret Popcorn.

The strategy was nuts

So why was this wrong strategically?

Two different brand names. A typical measure of effectiveness for a :30 TV ad is brand linkage, or the ability of a consumer to remember the brand name to buy. Most Super Bowl ads struggle to communicate just one brand; two is doubly difficult. All the more so when they are...

Two different products. Someone online wrote that these are peanuts and popcorn, not diapers and chainsaws. They're both snack foods so what's the big deal? It's a fair point. But while you can expect people to eat them at the same time, will a :30 TV spot convince them to buy them at the same time? No, because they offer...

No clear selling proposition. Let's face it, most food advertising literally says "this tastes good". (In this case they at least put an acrobatic twist on the usual bite and smile.) The Robert Goulet ad was much more specific, selling Emerald Nuts as a mid-afternoon, energy-boosting snack.

So what were they trying to do?

Taking a closer look, it's important to note for the umpteenth time that marketing does not live by TV alone.

As one blogger observed, Emerald spends about a fifth of their marketing budget on thirty seconds of Super Bowl advertising. To judge based on this investment alone would suggest a flawed strategy.

It appears their strategy is much more balanced, however. According to various published reports, they built a lot of other activity around the Super Bowl. FSI coupon. Trade circulars like the one above. Consumer promotion. Online activity. Working with their agency they appear to have built a through-the-line program around the Super Bowl as an event. No brain surgery there.

Did they succeed?

They claim to have succeeded: check out this press release issued on 8 February 2010, the day after the game. They cite sales results through the period ending 23 January and lots of other results. The only point we might dispute is whether the "Awesomer" commercial was "groundbreaking".

We can't dispute, however, the importance of all the other channels utilized. I still don't think the TV commercial was very good. By the time it ran, however, it appears Emerald had driven all the sales they needed. That's never crazy.

10 February 2010

"I'm not an ad man, I'm an ad businessman"

Recently we wrote about how agencies in smaller international markets exhibit the same kind of PT-boat flexibility we see in smaller U.S. agencies. In neither situation do you see the silos, sub-brands and sub-departments that prevent true collaboration among disciplines. Big agencies can be bureaucratic; smaller agencies can get to business solutions faster.

One of the best examples of this principle is Juan Saux, the owner of Mayo Publicidad in Lima, Peru, with offices in several neighboring countries of the Andean Pact. The headline above is my translation of what he said in this article appearing today on AdLatina.com. The article reports mostly his business philosophy, and we can assure you he is a businessman of startling acumen.

What the article doesn't say: Mayo (d/b/a Draftfcb in all of his countries) offers business solutions regardless of discipline. Juan has been around for a while, but the agency model is not Ye Olde Marketing. They are capable of many solutions a client would need.

That's the beauty of not segregating business functions and departments. To be sure, big agencies need not segregate, either. Mine doesn't. We can all learn a lot, however, from smaller agencies in any country.

08 February 2010

Looking for a job in advertising

Many of you aspire to a career in advertising or would like to change jobs within the industry.

Here is a useful resource: the "links" page for Big Shoes Network, a job board.

I learned about it when they put Ad Majorem on the list.

Happy hunting!

05 February 2010

Outputs vs. Outputs

A former colleague, Miguel Gonzalez, made this statement about mobile marketing at NATPE 2010 last week in Las Vegas:

“Mobile is the enabling device constantly in the possession of every consumer,” he said. “Instead of counting clicks, look at engagement metrics to measure how you’re doing in the marketplace.” (See the full article here on MobilizedTV.com.)

There are Outputs -- and then there are Outputs. It's not the total impressions that matter, it's how engaged someone was with your content. In Ye Olde Marketing we cared mostly about gross impressions; in modern marketing we care about engagement as well as impressions.

You clicked your way to this blog entry, but what I really care about as a publisher is that you read this far into the text. Do I look at hits per day? Sure. The numbers that matter, however, are new followers who took the time to sign up, time spent on the site, pages viewed and comments written. (A lot of this resulted from my Christmas holiday experiment.)

Miguel's statement was about mobile marketing, but I would argue it applies to all modern marketing. Measurement tools permit us to understand engagement much better than we did before.

Check out Miguel's new blog, Depth on Demand, now appearing on Ad Majorem's blogroll.

03 February 2010

Inputs vs. Outputs

A key tenet of channel neutral-planning is that budgets are not pre-assigned.

In Ye Olde Marketing, each discipline was given its budget before the fiscal year began; thus a marketer would usually spend the same amounts on TV, promotion, etc., from year to year.

In modern marketing we start with a consumer insight and figure out the mix of channels that will best engage the target and achieve the business objective.

So it was interesting to read this article on Adweek.com this morning telling us that "CPG's Online Spending Lags". The data, shown in the chart above, appears valid.

The headline, however, represents an old mindset. "Online spending lags" -- lags behind what? CPGs have a lot of smart people helping plan their budgets, people who actually use online media and understand its power to engage consumers. Isn't it possible they are assigning a budget to online media that properly leverages its power to engage their consumers? Or is their some percentage of the marketing spend CPGs "should" assign to online media?

The percentages assigned to all marketing channels -- retail programs, mass media and digital -- should be outcomes of the planning process, not inputs.