27 January 2012

Account. Creative. Planner. Client. Um, Media?

You may have the seen the above chart already; it’s making the rounds of social media among advertising people this week. Summarizing some stereotypes about account people, creative, planners and clients, it also cross-references how they all perceive one another. (Click the image to enlarge it.) It’s funny because it’s true.

In fact it first came to me via an email from Mike Keeler saying, “Sent from my brother. True.” Then someone else replied pointing out that it’s also incomplete: “Genius! But yet again media has been left out!” Ouch. It isn’t funny because it’s true.

The same thing happened last year with another bit of agency satire, an infographic called “The Anatomy Of An Agency”. The roles in that case were accounts, art director, copywriter, developer, and finance. Media was left out there, too.

Do these ads even run anywhere?

Recently we asked if Creative and Media have forgotten each other. Perhaps it comes from the spinoff of media agencies back in the 1990s. Perhaps it’s too much focus on the steps required to get an ad out the door. But at some point you’ve got to ask yourself where is a consumer going to see this creative work?

It’s not an academic question, and it applies equally to SEM copy, Direct Mail, banner ads and TV commercials. In fact that’s why the question is even more important than it was in the days of Ye Olde Marketing. The media landscape is such a Gigantic Venn Diagram that Media, or Comms Planning, is absolutely vital.

In fact, not only is it vital, it’s fun. As we traded comments on this subject, Keeler reminded me that “In this rapidly developing world of new media, the planning and buying of media is one of the most creative aspects of any campaign.”

A Modest Proposal

Anyone want to take a crack at how Media fits into “Perception in the Advertising World”?

23 January 2012

More Unusual Overlap on the Gigantic Venn Diagram

Often on Ad Majorem we discuss the Gigantic Venn Diagram, a concept that captures how the media landscape continues to change all the time and how consumers use media in a lot of different combinations.

This morning I’d like to direct your attention to a good article that should have been datelined from “An Unusual Overlap on the Gigantic Venn Diagram.” No, not The Twilight Zone. The QR code.

Yes, the QR code. It’s been criticized for a number of reasons, mainly due to its misuse by clueless marketers who insist on putting it in useless places like 30-sheet billboards along major highways.

David Henkel points out, however, that a QR code can be an effective direct mail tactic. Now that U.S. smartphone penetration exceeds that of feature phones, it's easier to imagine someone using a QR code to get more information about the product or offer they see on a piece of paper.

I hasten to add that like all technology, QR codes are not a solution unto themselves. Consumers will only respond to them if marketers communicate something relevant enough to cause a response.

So, here’s an overlap on the Gigantic Venn Diagram to think about: Direct Mail, Mobile, and Websites. It hits all of the Three Ds (Digital, Direct and Data) but better still, it recognizes how consumers use media.

Thanks to my colleague Patrick Moorhead for pointing out Henkel’s article.

18 January 2012

Social Media is Authentic, Not Automatic

A garage door service man understands Social Media better than most marketing people I know.

He happens to be technically inclined, but that's not what makes him an expert.

Who is this guy?

"Brad" is the owner and chief mechanic of Garage Door Corporation in Skokie, Illinois. We needed to replace a garage door remote control, and after looking in vain at DIY and Hardware stores, I found Brad's company via an Internet search. So far, a pretty routine 21st Century shopping procedure.

My phone call landed in voice mail, but the message was courteous and efficient, promising a return call within ten minutes. Sure enough, about ten minutes later Brad called and listened to what I wanted. He actually counseled me against buying anything right away, instead recommending a different, no-cost solution. During this conversation he directed me to his website, which surprised me in more ways than one.

Brad: Social Media maven

Your first impression of Brad's website will be that GDcorp.com is a pretty typical small business website. Lots of information and the graphics won't win any awards from D&AD. Then again, you go to a site like this to be informed and not entertained.

Then you'll notice icons for Facebook, Twitter and the company blog. Everybody has these, but since we were still on the phone I asked Brad how this Social Media thing was working out for him.

For Brad it's not about the technology, although from our conversation it's clear that he knows his 1s and 0s. He's an electrical engineer and has a Master's degree, but he doesn't think he needs those credentials to succeed with Social Media.

How a Small Business Succeeds at Social Media

Brad’s garage door business is surviving a recession that’s hit hard anything related to home construction. Others like him have closed down. It’s not Social Media by itself that saved him, but a way of working that happens to work well with Social Media.

· What business am I in? “I don’t manufacture garage doors or parts,” Brad says. “I can’t control that. In this day and age it’s all about service.” He lives this to such an extent that instead of selling me a remote control, he sold me his expertise. “We’re running a lot leaner than we were during the home-building boom,” he observes. “The key (now) is to be helpful.”

· Customer focus. One of the most over-used and under-applied terms in business, I know. Few people have true empathy for their customers. Brad doesn’t really have a mission statement other than what he told me on the phone: “Let us know what you want and I’ll get you the right thing.” He’s not a one-man show and takes hiring very seriously. “Who wants to see a guy drive up in van full of propane torches with a cigarette dangling out of his mouth?”

· Social Media can’t be set-and-forget. Based on some of his remarks, it seems he’s been pitched by some so-called experts. (He may have thought I was leading up to a pitch myself.) Who should manage the Social Media? “Nobody but the guy who knows the business and which markets he wants and what his customers are looking for.” On the subject of offshore call centers, he says “Once you get past Level 1 (a basic question), the offshore call centers can’t help you.”

Fanfare for the Common Man

Brad is a serious businessman who doesn’t take himself too seriously. His Twitter feed isn’t what you would call “a great follow” unless you want occasional insight into the garage door opener industry. That’s not the point, though. The point is that Brad uses Social Media not as en end unto itself, not as something to bring measurable ROI, and certainly not as a substitute for customer service. Rather, Social Media enables all those things by allowing Brad to express himself authentically to a growing customer base that hires him because he knows what they really need. Lots of industry pundits talk about Social Media as a tool of customer relations, but Brad actually does it.

13 January 2012

Creative + Media = Comms Planning

Have Creative and Media been apart so long that they've forgotten each other?

Some will say, "No, how could that be? We hear every day about the changing media landscape, so how could anyone in advertising ever forget media?

There's a difference, though, between what we hear every day and what we do every day. While it is absolutely false that legions of agency people robotically write only TV storyboards every day, it's equally true that few creatives get guidance on where and when their work will engage a consumer. Why? It could be lack of vision, adherence to a routine, or the artificial separation of Creative and Media from the spinoff of media agencies in the 1990s.

The Creative Brief is not enough

This week we had a group briefing for a new project. There were many great questions about the consumer, how she shops the category, and her decision making process. Suddenly the creative director asked an important question.

"Have we thought about Comms Planning?"

The very same question was on my mind, but it meant so much more coming from the creative director. She was clearly thinking about all the different ways to engage the consumer, and high on her list was how consumers could engage with their friends. (As I've written before, Social Media is just word-of-mouth + technology, allowing us to drive it better than we ever have.)

I'd like to think she asked this question because we're one of the few agencies that still has a media department, but that's not it. There wasn't a Media person in the room at the time. Besides, "Media" may not even be the right word. (I almost put it in scare quotes in the title of this post.)

Call it what you will, but there’s no point in calling it anything unless you’re going to do something about it in day-to-day business. “Media agnostic” is a bad term, partly because it describes a philosophy instead of something practical. “Comms planning” is better because it says we’re going to do something. (Notably, this was the first time I had ever heard an American ad person use the term "comms planning" in a regular, day-to-day meeting. It comes up in punditry all the time but as a business term it's rare.)

5 Steps to Comms Planning

If your normal practice is to just write the brief and hope that a media agency doesn’t prescribe 100% :15 TV ads when you thought shopper marketing was important, try taking these steps.

1. Leverage your work on consumer insights for the creative brief. It’s the same consumer and if you’ve done your homework, you know this person. That insight can help you understand how he or she uses media.

2. Apply that insight to how the consumer shops the category. At some point “the consumer” becomes “the shopper” and along that journey she uses different media. Think about how to engage her along the way.

3. Learn about channels outside your comfort zone. Technology is driving all the changes in the media landscape, but not all of those changes are digital. Retail disciplines like shopper marketing are important, too.

4. Prepare yourself to adjust the creative message according to channel. This is just common sense; a great TV spot drives awareness, talk value may be expressed via social media, and retail promotion may close the sale.

5. Think in terms of a business solution, not just a media solution. "Media" and "Channel" are both words describing a conduit, a means to an end, or the delivery of something. They don’t, however, just deliver messages or conduct word of mouth, they help you achieve a business objective.

You achieve your business objective on the strength of both Creative and Media. Don’t let them forget about each other.

02 January 2012

Don Pegler's True Legacy

Don Pegler was known in advertising for drawing animated characters. He was known to everyone else in his life as a man of character.

Don, an advertising legend, died last Monday after a battle with cancer. During his career as an illustrator and art director at Foote, Cone & Belding he created the Raid Bugs for S.C. Johnson. I had the pleasure of working with him near the end of his career and in his so-called retirement.

His personal story is right out of the Greatest Generation. An Army veteran, he seemed to have lived the classic Post-war American story. Don and his wife, Bridie, raised seven children in an impossibly modest (read: small) house in Park Ridge, Illinois. The photos on display at his wake showed the progression of time measured in children, grandchildren, confirmations and weddings. And of course many of his illustrations were on display.

It sounds quaint, almost cliché, to say he was a family man, active in his community. Don’t let cynicism lead you astray, because he was both of those things. The last two times I saw him were at a Park Ridge City Council meeting and at his house when my children and I stopped in to check on him. We didn’t have to check on him, of course; while we there his daughter Laurie arrived to do just that. It was clear from their easy rapport that Don had been a tremendous husband and father.

As I talked to his family, friends and neighbors this week, the memories told a tale of a man who not only treated other people well, but gave people a good feeling about themselves. We could all emulate Don’s character because it was based on simple things. A kind word. A ready smile or a good joke. A willingness to step up and do something positive rather than just complain. There was also a charming irreverence about Don (and his work). Chicago art rep Tom Maloney summed up Don well in a tweet: "Decent, humble and fun." You took him seriously because he never took himself seriously. Don inspired good things in others.

At FCB, many of Don’s friends worked on the S.C. Johnson account, which officially left the agency one month ago today. To the people who worked on SCJ, Don meant something. He symbolized our achievements: Just as the Raid Bugs is the longest-running, most-global ad campaign in history, many other accomplishments helped SCJ grow into a multibillion dollar enterprise.

More than that, Don’s example should inspire us on a personal level. That’s really his true legacy. Not what he did, but who he was.

(Please click here to read a wonderful tribute to Don written by Karen I. Hirsch, a Chicago-based photographer and former FCB colleague. Karen gets the credit for the above image of Don and his bugs.)