06 March 2011

How to Get Ahead in Advertising

The marketing and advertising world is constantly changing, and so is the way you advance through it.

Recently my business partner and I met with some human resources folks to talk about how our people are faring on the job. Sure, we spent time on performance evaluation, but the real purpose is people development. Nothing enthuses me more than seeing everyone perform up to their full level of potential.

We used to develop people by making them into great specialists, i.e., great advertising people. This meant we taught them to know the client’s business, their competition, their consumer, and of course the ins and outs of how to develop great advertising.

These days the conversation is less about how to make people better specialists, and more about how to make them better generalists. You still have to know the client’s business, but also the ins and outs of advertising, retail and digital.

Put another way, advancement is not so much a straight line through one discipline, but tacking like a sailboat across various disciplines. We will always need specialists, but it’s the generalists who will advance the farthest in agencies of the future.

Some people embrace this approach naturally, teaching themselves about shopper marketing or social media; others purposely change jobs to gain experience. Sadly, some people put their heads in the sand and ignore or even criticize different channels.

My own perspective is that I’d be bored doing the same thing, the same way, for more than a couple of years. I’m grateful that my current job brings new challenges every day, and the chance to try a new way of marketing my clients’ products and services.

The course to growth and advancement

These are some of the buoys in the water that can mark your path to growth and advancement:

Advertising. Yes, advertising. Companies still spend billions of dollars on it. Television is still the fastest way to build awareness of a message, and it’s adapting to a digital world with time-shifting, pre-roll and on-demand programming. A good agency executive gets familiar with all of it.

Retail. Most agency people don’t take the time to understand Retail, whether it’s promotion or shopper marketing. You will perish for lack of knowledge because retailers are gaining so much of your clients’ marketing budgets and this discipline has become much more strategic in the past decade.

Digital. For all the industry trade press coverage of “digital”, the people with practical experience are still a narrow subculture. Your agency may have hired some brand-name experts but you only benefit if you’re working on a digital assignment. You can study Digital but there’s no substitute for experience.

Channel planning. You can only be a true generalist if you know how to combine everything in a way that will drive your client’s business. This seems obvious but it amazes me how seldom it actually gets done, and even then it is not usually done from a true consumer perspective. Just a few years ago, the easy, almost lazy thing to do was draw up a spider chart and “surround the consumer” with as many “touchpoints” as possible. That never really worked.

How to Get Ahead in Advertising

You’ve become a generalist. You understand Advertising, Retail, Digital and Channel Planning. In one of these you’re a specialist. This is how you get ahead in advertising.

Where you work is also part of the equation. Your agency or consultancy may be held back by a traditional view, antiquated organizational structure, lack of capability in specific disciplines, or the lack of a media department that years ago was spun off into a separate agency. The biggest restraint, however, is when an agency loses its ability to know the client’s business, their competition, their consumer, and how to provide business solutions.

The “agency” only loses its ability to the extent its employees lose it. You can control your own development. Familiarize yourself with other disciplines, be a great generalist, but never lose sight of the need to be able to solve a client’s business problems. The path onward and upward isn’t a straight line anymore. You’ll have to be patient and continually improve yourself.

03 March 2011

#IMCchat is now bi-weekly

There was another great edition of #IMCchat on Twitter last evening, thanks to moderators Beth Harte and Anna Barcelos. At the end of the session they announced that #IMCchat will now run bi-weekly, so if you want to participate, mark your calendar for Wednesday 16 March at 7:00 p.m. Central U.S. time.

01 March 2011

What is IMC?

IMC, or Integrated Marketing Communications, has more than few definitions. Here’s mine: it’s Marketing.

The words “Integrated” and “Communications” are redundant

Any marketer who doesn’t integrate their various marketing communications, in even the smallest way, is so hopelessly siloed they will never survive. There’s simply no excuse in the year 2011 for developing separately your advertising, retail and digital programs. Even in a siloed organization most people acknowledge the need to work across disciplines. Even the most specialized agency acknowledges the need to cooperate with their clients’ other partners.

Thus the word “integrated” is redundant because all marketing must be integrated. I would argue, too, that “marketing” implies some kind of communications, so that word is also redundant.

IMC is just a fancy acronym for Marketing

I confess to having used the term myself, here, here, here and here. In each case the context was a program where we made a specific, dedicated effort to align all the disciplines and deliver for a client a truly integrated marketing program. This effort required a lot of heavy lifting strategically as well as during execution, not to mention the challenge of keeping all the various constituencies moving in the same direction. It’s hard work, especially if you have to wrangle a group of agencies.

We need hard work, because aligning the disciplines doesn’t come naturally. In the days of Ye Olde Marketing, advertising was relatively simple, retail was far less sophisticated, and digital didn’t exist. Today all those disciplines demand attention, so we need specific, dedicated efforts that change our behavior and help make IMC – uh, modern marketing, come naturally.

Stop calling it IMC

The risk in continuing to use the term “IMC” is that some marketers and some agencies will treat only some marketing as “integrated” – which means that other kinds of marketing are what, exactly? Disparate? Traditional? Antiquated? It starts to sound like Ye Olde Marketing.

I’m not starting to a campaign to extinguish the term “IMC”. I’m merely advising caution in using it.

Join #IMCchat Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. Central U.S. time

Just a reminder that tomorrow night is another edition of #IMCchat, which we posted about recently.