The myth of the “full service” advertising agency

Finding the right advertising agency requires being honest with yourself

Finding the right advertising agency requires being honest with yourself

The advertising/marketing ecosystem is too large and complex to offer all services in-house

It’s an old illusion in the advertising business that agencies wanted to look larger then they actually were. The thinking behind this was that the more services you claimed to offer, the better chance you had of reeling in new accounts. It was this mindset that coined the phrase “full service” agency.

Enter reality

Today’s advertising/marketing ecosystem is far too complex for any one agency to possess all of the needed skill sets in-house. In fact, the major advertising holding companies have been on a buying spree acquiring specialized agencies and then trying to integrate them into their multinational brand name agencies.

What clients are ending up with is a convoluted mix with a lead agency that directs different specialized groups under the holding company umbrella. Of course, what goes along with this are turf battles, divergent strategies, off-brand messaging and a revolving door of well-intentioned agency people operating with a minimum amount of knowledge, trying to keep the client happy.

The small agencies specialize and the big agencies get bigger

Advertising Age recently published an article about how the forces of technology are ushering in and shaping new business models that will affect advertising agency service offerings, size, and profitability.

What we are seeing now is the rise of small boutique agencies that specialize in category, market, or technology expertise. These agencies have no illusions as to their service offering and are very transparent with their clients about what they bring to the table. They also offer their clients the greatest amount of flexibility, because they can contract with best of breed suppliers when a specialized service is required.

The multinational holding company agencies will continue to gorge, fueled by large brands that use advertising as a blunt force weapon. For all the prediction that consumers want to engage with brands and have a relationship, the majority of consumers just want to watch TV and tune out of their socially hectic worlds for a few hours entertained by mediocre television programming, supported by advertising that makes it hard to remember the name of the brand or what it is actually supposed to accomplish with daily use.

The forecast for the future does not bode well for mid-sized agencies

Mid-sized agencies suffer in two areas. First, they try to staff for too many specialized skill sets in the belief that their clients care about this. There is too much technology and infrastructure at play for any small department to be competent in the nuances of code and the required updates of operating systems to keep this humming along.

Secondly, mid-sized agencies suffer from non-billing personnel “creep,” ranging from administration to human resources to accounting. This starts to take a bite out of agency profitability at a time when clients are demanding more services for less cost.

Finding the right agency requires being honest with yourself

Do you want a long-term or a project-by-project business relationship? Do you need strategic planning and research or more of a tactical execution of internal strategy? Are you looking for an agency of record or interested in working with several agencies based on the need at hand? Each relationship has its pros and cons based on resources and expectations. I believe the agency of the future is small and nimble, creatively driven and staffed by a small team of experienced managers that can bring forth the forces and talent needed to complete the task at hand in an efficient manner.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

The Precarious State of Advertising & Marketing

Why Business-to-Business Marketing is Transforming to People-to-People Marketing

When to rethink

Copyright: bacho12345 / 123RF Stock Photo

Have we lost sight of creativity in advertising?

 

As practitioners of a creative craft, what are we trying to accomplish?

As practitioners of a creative craft, what are we trying to accomplish?

Is the constant drumbeat from ad technology firms overshadowing the importance of creativity?

For those of us left in the advertising business, it seems that every message we receive has something to do with ad technology and its unlimited possibilities for making advertising more effective.

We, as agency creatives (if that is still even a relevant term), are overwhelmed with digital platforms. From programmatic media buying, to optimization, to first and third person data, it appears that ad technology has become the means to the end.

As practitioners of a creative craft, what are we trying to accomplish? Once, our primary job was to inform and entice people to purchase our client’s products and services. This usually required the talents of humans that could string together words, pictures, thoughts and emotions into a memorable experience executed across different mediums.

To accomplish this, a deep understanding of human psychology, communication and interaction was required, intertwined with a point of view. The message could be perceived as funny, clever, sarcastic, and informative, a hard sell, or any one of hundreds of different tones and styles of human communication.

Ad technology is nothing more than a delivery mechanism

Ad technology providers would lead you to believe that the message is secondary to the channel from which it is delivered.

With all the streaming bits and bytes of data swirling around our sensory receptors, it is no wonder that the “human” part of us has learned in a relatively short time to tune out internet advertising.

The reason for this is that the message has been compromised by the delivery mechanism.

The religion of ad technology practiced by the providers of ad networks, mobile apps, and behavioral retargeting wants us to believe that the scripture of analytics trumps creativity and with enough retargeting, our resistance will ebb and we will succumb to the purchase of a product we don’t want or need.

The reality is that we have already learned to block out such annoyances that appear on our screens as we read the opinion page of the New York Times or catch up the on final quarter of the game we slept through last night.

John Wanamaker in 1898 was correct that half of the money spent on advertising is wasted. The trouble is knowing which half. I’d make the case that this still holds true today, considering half of digital advertising cascading across the internet is never seen by a human being.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Do your customers suffer from “E-fluenza”?

The Precarious State of Advertising & Marketing

Why bother with branding?

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.
Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

Mobile marketing: Shiny object or game changer?

The mobile environment represents a further blurring of the lines between consumer and business marketing and advertising.

The mobile environment represents a further blurring of the lines between consumer and business marketing and advertising.

There is considerable content being generated on the topic of mobile marketing. Data suggests that by 2016 there will be over 196 million smart phone users (60% of the population) in North America. eMarketer is predicting $67 billion in digital ad spending, of which $40 billion will go towards mobile internet ad spending. Obviously these are sizable numbers but we should not lose sight of the total ad spend which is close to $200 billion, with traditional (broadcast and print) representing $132 billion.

As with any projection, the numbers serve the needs of the presenter. Therefore, one must consider the source and take a rational viewpoint concerning the size of the mobile marketing environment.

People-to-People marketing and the mobile marketing environment

The mobile marketing environment represents a further blurring of the lines between consumer and business marketing and advertising. Because the emphasis is on connecting with individuals, a strong case can be made that this is a transformational shift to People-to-People marketing.

People-to-People marketing shifts the conversation from companies to individuals as the workplace is deconstructed and mobile devices become the primary business platform. Mobile technologies such as Apps and mobile web are becoming part of the marketing mix as smart phone and tablet users adopt direct brand interaction, from ordering a pizza, to tracking health trends, to mobile banking.

Preparing B-to-B brands for mobile marketing

B-to-B brands would be wise to adopt a People-to-People marketing strategy and tactical implementation as they enter into the mobile marketing fray.

First, make sure your website is ”fully responsive” for viewing on different mobile devices. One way to check this is through Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test site. This test site will analyze the URL and report if the page has a mobile-friendly design. Google is also in the process of optimizing their search engine results to favor mobile-friendly sites.

Advertising is also an option for reaching mobile users. As individuals uncouple from the traditional office environment, mobile devices become their primary business platform. Mobile programmatic advertising placement is becoming prevalent, with a host of real time bidding scenarios for placing advertising on mobile networks.

Marketers should also consider developing Apps if the cost is justified by the contribution the App makes to the revenue stream.

App development can cost between $50 and $150 thousand depending on the complexity of the App and the number of operation system platforms it is designed to run on. Think desktop, tablet, smartphone, running on IOS, Android, Unix, Windows, etc.

Once the App is built, the challenge of getting users to download and place it on their device comes into play. This can be accomplished via App stores or by direct download.

Then there’s the maintenance side of the App equation. Once it has been introduced, it must be maintained with updates as the operating system environments are upgraded and new releases become available.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Why Business-to-Business Marketing is Transforming to People-to-People Marketing

People-to-People Marketing and “Small Data”

5 reasons why aviation manufacturers need to embrace People-to-People Marketing

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Copyright: / 123RF Stock Photo

Digital Ad Targeting – What Do Marketers Know About You?

Who is looking at your data?

Who is looking at your data?

More than you suspect – first, second, and third party data

The adoption of programmatic advertising has given rise to using captured data to target banner ad placement across ad exchanges and networks.

This data is referred to as first, second, and third party data. Depending on which side of the buy/sell equation you stand on — advertiser or publisher — these terms have different meanings. What is important to keep in mind is just about all programmatic advertising is data driven marketing, with the intent of making more efficient targeted ad buying.

Not all data is created equal

First party data

First party data refers to data gathered about you through a direct relationship. Even in its simplest form, there are two types of first party data — advertiser and publisher.

For an advertiser, this can be data captured through a registration, check out transaction, cookie content, purchasing history, or merchandise searches. Advertisers use this data in a variety of ways, including showing additional merchandise that may be related to your purchasing history.

Publishers also lay claim to first party data; however, most likely not due to a direct relationship with you. Publishers monitor their ad networks and store analytical information, such as age, gender, etc., to create interest segments, such as banking/finance, travel, autos, technology, etc. This data creates a behavioral profile of your interest that helps advertisers target their programmatic advertising purchases across the publisher’s network to the pages you view.

Second party data

Second party data refers to one first party entity – advertiser or publisher – sharing information with each other.

For example, Amazon might partner with the New York Times to gain access to its audience behavioral profile. Amazon considers this information second party because it did not collect it. However, Amazon uses the data to purchase advertising space and place a banner ad of items that you recently viewed on the Amazon site.

Third party data

Third party data is information that is collected by an entity that does not have a direct relationship with you. Third party data collectors pay publishers to collect data about their site visitors and create profiles on your tastes, shopping habits, and behaviors as you move around the web. This information in turn is sold to advertisers with the intent of making their ad buy more effective.

The current reality of the internet is that we provide advertisers, publishers, and third party entities with our personal information for free. In turn, our information is repackaged and sold to marketers that use it to provide us with a “more personalized” web experience. Depending on your point of view, this can a good thing or something we should be very wary of.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Big brother and marketing ROI

Do your customers suffer from “E-fluenza”?

Measuring Digital Display Advertising ROI

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Copyright: auremar / 123RF Stock Photo

What’s your brand’s reputation worth?

The customer’s emotional connection to a brand’s reputation reflects their values and beliefs

Customers select brands that align with their values.

The customer’s emotional connection to a brand’s reputation reflects their values and beliefs

It has been documented by several top-flight management consulting firms that B-to-B brands can achieve brand loyalty by providing positive experiences across multiple touchpoints. While I agree with this statement, it fails to take into account the customer’s emotional connection with the brand’s reputation. Their emotional connection is the real estate between the customer’s ears. Owning this can be a competitive advantage because it makes the competition work harder and invest more to be considered in the evaluation segment of the considered purchase process.

What’s your brand’s reputation worth?

Aside from an intangible asset listing for “goodwill” on the financial statement, studies have show that companies with strong brands have a higher EBIT margin than those with weak brands. This can be attributed to the buyer’s positive perception of the brand based on its reputation in the industry segment.

Small companies that invest consistently in their brand’s reputation can command premium pricing, leading to ownership of the high-end segment of the industry. This can cause larger competitors to adjust their price point and product offering to appeal to a less sophisticated user, resulting in smaller profit margins.

Purchasing cycle touchpoints

The traditional B-to-B purchasing funnel has been disrupted. No longer is it a linear journey but more of a spiral with blended phases. These phases consist of awareness, consideration, evaluation, purchase, and advocacy. During any one of the phases, the buyer can spin off into a new search when social media or peer recommendations influences the brand’s reputation. Of course, building a personal relationship is still the most effective means of influencing the purchasing decision. However, in the digital age, a majority of buyers have already their completed their due diligence by the time the sales representative is brought into the loop.

Brand investment marketing touchpoints:

  • Website
  • Advertising
  • Sales collateral
  • Press releases, feature articles
  • Social media networks
  • Industry trade shows

Customer messaging that connects

B-to-B customer communications has primarily focused on product feature/function and innovation. Additional themes have been security of supply, global reach, and customer service. While the above topics are important, there is a shift in customer sentiment and a yearning to know more of the brand story. This shift represents an opportunity to enhance the brand reputation by communicating, for example, how it treats supply chain vendors in developing countries, or supporting social causes that benefit a population segment or environmental causes that protect natural resources.

Customers select brands that align with their values. The Wal-Mart brand stands for low cost, Audi stands for automotive engineering excellence, and Whole Foods stands for locally sourced organic produce. Visit any of the brands’ stores or showrooms and you will see an alignment with their customer value systems. Brands that speak to their customer’s values and beliefs will have an enduring reputation and lasting value within that segment.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Investing in your brand perception

Should your brand be aligned with a moral cause?

Emotional ties create strong brand loyalty

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Copyright: ribah / 123RF Stock Photo

The Precarious State of Advertising & Marketing

Humans respond to creativity. We are attracted to design, color, shape, and imagination.

Creativity and experience matter more than ever.

Daily we are subjected to a constant barrage of marketing messages. From text messages for discounts from our favorite yogurt establishment, to emails from strangers, to online advertising featuring talking Geckos backed by Berkshire Hathaway’s unlimited media budget. It seems that there are neither limits nor boundaries that marketers will not exceed to try to get our attention.

Because we carry the internet in our pocket, we are at risk of information overload. Already we have short attention spans and our tempers are getting even shorter.

That is precisely why creativity and experience matter more now than ever.

Humans respond to creativity. We are attracted to design, color, shape, and imagination. We want to associate with experiences. And that is the essence of great advertising and marketing.  Corporations and their brands spend billions of dollars every year trying to gain a foothold in our consciousness, hedging their bet that when we “need” something, we will select their brand over the competition.

Algorithms can be creative but they can’t replace creativity.

It seems in the digital universe of search, some have decided that efficiency and scale are all that matters. The selling of keyword search terms have turned search engines into the largest advertising agencies on the planet. Forgoing strategy and concept for the sake of efficiency, thousands of small brands compete for customers through paid links, hoping that the phone rings. Unfortunately, the only brand differentiation for paid links is the price you pay for the search term.

Digital is disruptive, but it’s also disposable.

Hindsight tells us that digital advertising and marketing has been a disruptive force to traditional media and advertising channels. Yes, it has taken its toll on newspapers and magazine subscriptions and advertising revenue. Digital channels are more efficient, use fewer natural resources, and are capable of getting to market faster.  Nevertheless, for all of its efficiency, digital content is disposable. No one collects digital pages or ads because they were moved to action by the photographer’s skills in capturing the emotion of the moment, the art director’s sense of design in bringing the images and copy together, or the copywriter’s nuance for tone and style.

Are you experienced?

Navigating the waters of traditional and digital marketing is a balancing act. Follow the digital evangelist too far and you can slowly drown in a maze of platforms and data. Follow the traditionalist for too long and your brand becomes stodgy, or worse, irrelevant in a connected world.

As we survey the current state of advertising and marketing, we need to remember that what we have before us is a product of our own making.  Great brands understand the need for innovation and are not afraid to try new strategies and tools, but they also remember the creativity, experience, and imagination that helped them get where they are today.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Big data and creativity

Should your brand be aligned with a moral cause?

Why aviation brands need emotional engagement

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.

Social media content strategy

Social media content, when used as an integrated marketing tool, can extend the reach of advertising.

Why platform selection affects the quality and quantity of social media content

Social media, love it or leave it, is hard to get away from. What started as digital networks where like-minded users could connect and share information has grown into a multi-billion dollar network catering to sophisticated brand advertising and user generated content.

Platform selection influences quality of social media content

B-to-B brands seeking to use social media for engagement need to understand the strengths and limitations of their selected social platform. Where Facebook is perceived as a more B-to-C retail platform, there are numerous examples where B-to-B brands have used the platform to connect with rural outlying communities where their facilities are located.

Each platform has its own particular tone and style. Understanding this allows for social media content to be developed to show a more human side of the brand or a more technical competency based on the objectives of the social media effort.

Objectives can include the following:

  • Community relations
  • Recruitment
  • Health and safety
  • Product comparison
  • Thought leadership
  • New product introduction
  • Forwarding of content via social network
  • New business inquiry

Achieving any of the above identifies content that is conceptually sound, produced with a purpose, and deemed valuable by its intended audience.

Content that lacks strategic direction is hastily cobbled together, short on authenticity, and not tied to a specific objective is probably a waste of time and resources.

Key take away: Having a platform presence without a strategy is not sustainable and will quickly lead to abandonment.

Integrating social media content with other marketing tools

Social media content, when used as an integrated marketing tool, can extend the reach of advertising. This complementary function is much like the support of public relations. Done correctly, social media content can capture an influencer’s attention, leading to additional content generated with the appearance of endorsement.

Key take away: Social media content is a complementary tool not intended to carry the entire marketing load.

How much social media content is needed to be effective?

The internet is a content eating machine. In order to stand out in the sea of sponsored display advertising and user generated content, advertisers should be prepared for a long term commitment to social media content development and treat it with an evergreen journalistic approach.

Key take away: The best strategy is to develop a library of content that has a long shelf life.

Social media has its limitations

The one thing social media can’t do is provide sustainable scale. By its very nature, it is fragmented – subject to the reader’s value system and point of view. Accuracy of regenerated content cannot be guaranteed and may do more harm than good.

The use of social media by B-to-B brands is accelerating. Taking a strategic approach to integrating social media into the marketing mix requires creativity and a willingness to try something different.

Additional articles you may find of interest on this topic:

Why content development will drive the future of aviation marketing

How to engineer a social marketing strategy

How to write effective online copy

Please leave your comments or thoughts below.