This IS The Age Of Mobile Marketing …Is Your Agency Standing On The Sidelines?

December 29, 2009

According to a recent article published by eMarketer, mobile commerce’s time has arrived. Aided by a flurry of acquisition activity, an influx of venture capital funding and growing brand adoption in the latter half of 2009, the year ahead will see mobile continue its shift toward the marketing mainstream.

 It is eye-catching when a consultancy revises a market forecast upward in the midst of an economic downturn. That is exactly what ABI Research did with its forecast of mobile sales of physical goods in North America. In January 2009 it projected m-commerce sales would reach $544 million this year, up 57% over 2008—impressive in its own right. But in late October, ABI upped its forecast, saying sales would top $750 million in 2009, a whopping 117% annual growth rate. M-commerce’s time has arrived, and it is an easy bet that sales in 2010 will pass the $1 billion mark.

 Whereas consumers once limited their mobile phone purchases to downloadable ringtones and games, today they are using their devices to buy books, apparel and other items associated with online shopping on a PC.

 As I have often commented before, this increased growth will ultimately create a need for better creative. Up until now, marketers and their agencies have done a tremendous job of recycling and repurposing creative assets from other media and channels, in an attempt to make sure that as much of the budget as possible goes into working media.

This is an opportunity for agencies to step up to the plate and deliver a better quality product while demanding more fully funded mobile production budgets.  While most creative types currently believe that mobile environments have significant creative limitations, the reality is that this is indeed not the case. The problem is that most creatives are not aware of the technologies currently available and hence what is actually possible.

 While there are currently some notable agencies out there leading the charge and creating excellent work, most seem to be overlooking the opportunity.


The Two People Most Critical To Agency New Business Success!

December 17, 2009


Is getting in the door and developing the new business lead important? “Absolutely!” However, if your follow through is lacking, all that development work and investment just goes down the drain accompanied by increasing agency new business strain. Critical to achieving new business success is a great pitch strategy, a pitch czar, a well articulated deck and a well rehearsed team! Without all of these, it does not matter how creative your agency is!

The agency pitch environment is incredibly frenetic, fraught with individual agendas and distracted by the pressures of ongoing client responsibilities and work. It is not unusual for an agency to assign pitch leadership responsibility to a senior account person, who by the way is already inundated with existing client work.

 As you have probably found out already through experience, this simply does not work. If you are serious about new business and the need to win, you have to allocate the right resources. It goes without saying that you need the “team to win” versus “the team available, however without the following two people, your chances of success are slim.


 The Pitch Czar:

It is imperative that you appoint a pitch leader that has both the responsibility and authority to lead the pitch. This person is responsible for:

  • Making all the hard decisions, their word is the last word on everything.
  • The pitch strategy.
  • Making sure that the pitch work addresses the brief.
  • Introducing as required external resources and partners.
  • Keeping in touch with the client/consultant, and constantly building the pre pitch relationship.
  • Keeping the team on track, on budget and on time.
  • Orchestrating the final presentation format, pitch logistics, leave behinds etc.
  • Post pitch follow up.


Internal New Business Coordinator:

The Pitch Czar cannot achieve success on his/her own. They need the support of an internal new business coordinator. This individual is internally focused and ultimately responsible for the day to day management of the pitch and budget management. Their responsibilities include but are not limited to:

  • Development and control of the pitch deck, including the quality of the final output.
  • Keeping the pitch team on budget and delivering each step on time.
  • Implementing the agreed pitch process and ensuring everyone adheres to it.
  • Coordinating deliverables from outside resources, if any. (research etc)
  • Food and drink for pitch team during late night sessions.
  • Production of any leave behinds.
  • Researching the pitch venue and layout and determining what is possible or needed from a presentation perspective.
  • Equipment and technology required for the pitch.
  • Back-up plan for a possible technology failure.


The simple truth is that assigning senior account people who are already overloaded with existing client work is not going to deliver the results you need. In fact it will only serve to distress your pitch closing ratio and ultimately demoralize the agency. In my consulting practice I see the same mistakes being made every day. On the other hand, I also see the benefits when it is done correctly.

Forrester Research Identifies Significant Challenges For Integrated Agencies

September 23, 2009

Integrated Mktng

Integrated Marketing, 360 Degree or whatever you want to call it marketing, continues to be the topic de jour among agencies and marketers alike. Many agencies are clamoring to reposition themselves as “Fully Integrated and Media Neutral”, capable of delivering work across the full media spectrum. Forrester’s latest research suggests that most clients may not be ready for such an agency.

According to a recent survey, conducted by Forrester Research on behalf of Merkle, most marketers lack a holistic view of their customers and communicate with them in multiple silos. As a result, these marketers are unable to adopt a customer centric approach, supported by strategies focused on maximizing total customer value. A situation that is the antithesis of what most integrated agencies offer.

Organization and technology are the biggest barriers: Most marketers claim that they want to send relevant messages to customers and communicate with them in a way that improves the brand experience. More than half of the respondents reported the lack of a single owner of the customer experience, which resulted in silo’d, inconsistent approaches and misaligned goals within the organization. If such a situation exists internally, how could the marketer possibly engage effectively with an integrated agency?

Very few marketers use customer engagement as a primary factor in their communications: Only 11% of marketers said customer engagement was primary and 32% said it’s often a factor. For 20% of respondents, it is seldom or never a factor.

“We struggle to measure customer engagement. We don’t have a system to manage it, in part because nobody has a singular responsibility for managing it. Unfortunately, it’s just not a priority.” (Hi-tech company)

Only one-third employ a contact strategy:  Only 35% say that they have a contact strategy designed to deliver the right message through the right medium at the right time.

Measurement doesn’t drive budget allocation: Almost two-thirds of respondents (64%) continue to allocate budgets across marketing disciplines based on historical spending, and 56% do so simply based on planned activity. Why? –  because that’s what they do. Media mix modeling – which allows marketers to understand the incremental impact of specific media and activity – is used by less than one-third of the respondents.

Marketers are missing the point more than half the time: When assigning credit for a sale or transaction, more than half attribute the activity to the most recent touch point. If a prospect saw a TV commercial, received a direct mail piece, three emails and then searched for an item and bought it from their company, the entire credit for the sale would be allocated to their SEM efforts. Less than a third of marketers calculate fractional attribution across all activity.

All that being said, it would appear that clients, especially the larger clients are not structured in the optimum way to be able to easily engage with an integrated agency. Their internal structures tend to support the ongoing use of independent specialists focused on supporting each of the silos.

That’s probably why everyone has been chasing the Holy Grail of marketing for years now, and the chase will probably continue for years to come.




Effective Use of Voicemail in Ad Agency New Business Prospecting

September 22, 2009


Voicemail can be a very effective tool for new business prospecting when used correctly. Incorrectly used it quickly leads you to a dead end and high levels of frustration for both client and agency alike.

It’s becoming harder and harder to reach prospective clients through cold calling. Armed with defensive tools such as caller ID, personal assistants, and the dreaded voicemail box, most clients have become very adept at avoiding cold calls from agencies. According to the AAAA’s, most clients receive 8-9 unsolicited agency approaches every month. No wonder they are running for cover.

You can try calling during fringe hours to try and catch them of guard and try all the other tricks in the book. The reality is that most of your calls will go straight to the prospect’s voicemail box and, no matter how hard you try to avoid it, you will end up having to leave a voicemail message. However, this is not the end of the world.

Voicemail messages can be a very effective way of getting your message through to the client and peaking their interest in your agency. Sometimes, enough interest to actually get them to answer your call on your next attempt. Here are a few tips to help you deliver more effective cold calling voicemails:

  • Keep them short and do not leave one every time you call. (One new business person showed me their call log for a specific client. They had made over 150 phone calls over four months and left only 5 voicemails. She got through to the client after the fifth voicemail, secured an initial presentation and was subsequently awarded the business).
  • Develop a series of voicemails that each shares a different piece of information about your agency and how you might bring value to the client’s business. (Think of it as dropping a series of breadcrumbs for them to follow)
  • Practice leaving voicemails so that you sound confident and eloquent when the prospect listens to them. Avoid leaving confused and rambling voicemails full of Um’s. They end up being deleted within the first few seconds of playback.

Remember, clients hate receiving cold calls as much as you hate making them. So think your voicemails through before leaving them and make every one count.




Unsolicited Ad Agency New Business Mailings…Winning strategies

September 16, 2009


Depending on the size of the client company, they will receive on average somewhere between 7-8 unsolicited agency mailings/approaches every month. That adds up to between 84-96 a year. Here’s how you can make yours stand out and avoid the pitfalls.

As a result of aggressive agency new business outreach programs, clients are being inundated with agency new business solicitations on a weekly basis. As you can imagine, most of them end up either going straight into the trash can or being deleted. Breaking through the clutter has never been harder. Here are some actual client tips that should help make your agency’s efforts more effective:

What appeals to the prospective client?

  • Materials quickly demonstrated relevance to my business.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of my business and understanding of my category, market, brand and company.
  • Professional presentation, solid company with a good reputation/years of experience in the industry
  • Materials were simple, short, concise and straightforward.
  • Previous work examples and industry experience.
  • Appeared cost effective with an ability to work within a budget.
  • Relevant, remarkable case studies supported with results.
  • Creativity demonstrated by new fresh ideas and innovative use of new media and technology.

What is an instant turn off?

  • Pushy and hard core selling.
  • Materials are all about the agency and not relevant to me and my business.
  • Ignorance or lack of understanding of my business/market.
  • Nothing unique. Too generic.
  • Content is irrelevant and solicitation is poorly targeted.
  • Solicitation is too flashy, over the top or too contrived. Avoid the tchotchke.
  • Presentation is too long, too contrived and too difficult to read. Just plain poor communication.
  • It is not immediately clear to me why this was sent to me and why it might be relevant to me.

“Only pitch business you are willing to take the time to really do the due diligence to pursue. Make it less about you, the agency, and more about the client.”

Credit for reference content: AAAA’s agency search research study conducted by MillwardBrown.


Differentiate Your Ad Agency OR Get Lost Amongst The Masses!

September 15, 2009

agency differentiation

If you want your agency to succeed you have to have a compelling reason for being! Every agency inherently knows that it needs to differentiate itself from the competitors. Hell, they preach it to their clients every day. Why is it then that most agencies all look and sound alike?

There is no differentiation in claiming to be a digital agency or social media agency, filled with experts in the field. There are hundreds if not thousands of agencies out there with the same capabilities. Differentiation does come from a “proprietary agency process” that we like to tout as being unique. Clients find such claims laughable. And while great work is always of interest to clients, in and of itself it is not a differentiator. Now finally to my pet peeve. Claiming to be a fully integrated, seamless, 360 degree or full service agency DEFINITELY is not differentiating. In fact it’s not even believable, but that’s a subject for another post.

True differentiation comes from within the agency. It starts with agency leadership and the tone that they set. It’s built on internal beliefs, ideals, values and the combined capabilities of the team. It’s influenced by the type of clients you have, the nature of the working relationship that exists and the type and essence of the work you do for them. At the end of the day, it’s ultimately more about personality than capability.

My past experience has taught me that quiet often even agency staff members cannot readily articulate what differentiates their agency when asked the question. It therefore follows that if they don’t know, how do you expect clients to know, especially prospective clients. And of course it goes without saying that if you talk the talk, to be authentic you must walk the walk. If you don’t, clients quickly see through the smoke and mirrors.

Agency’s that have a truly differentiated positioning that is aligned with their business strategy and goals have no trouble growing and being successful. They are constantly making sure that staff members and clients (both existing and potential) Know who they are and what make them different.

 Those who do not or perhaps just find it difficult to maintain faith in their ideals struggle to survive. They have no reason for coming in to work every day other than a paycheck.




Social Media: Ad Agencies Just Don’t Get It.

September 14, 2009

My agency does not get it 

Social media is the antithesis of advertising. Most traditional agencies do not have the required social media skills and they struggle with how to integrate it into their overall marketing communications plans. The minority, who get it, have competitive advantage!

Awareness Networks recently hosted a webinar titled, “Social Media: Your Agency Does Not Get It…Who Does?” The speaker was Jason Falls (, a well known and respected blogger in the public relations and social media space. What makes Jason particularly relevant to the ad agency world is that he has worked with and for a host of marketing agencies.

I have listed below  a link to the podcast of the session, however before you go ahead and view it, here are some interesting highlights I wanted to share with you:

  • Most agencies tell the client that they can do anything. They then go right ahead and outsource the work. Given that the very essence of social media is transparency, agencies should either be up front with the client or invest in the capabilities beforehand.
  • He suggested a series of questions that clients ask agencies before awarding them the work. I thought you might like to know what they were, in case one of your clients was listening to the podcast:
    • What is the strategy behind your recommendations?
    • Who does the strategy
    • Does the agency have a blog?
    • Are the agencies employees on Twitter?
    • Can you share several case studies for other client work?
    • What social media mistakes have you made and what did you learn from them?
    • Who does the execution?
  • Jason maintains that ROI is easy to measure in social media, if your media programs are aligned with clear business goals.
  • The biggest challenge brands face is that there are conversations happening everywhere and most brands do not have the right people to manage social media.
  • In social media there is no B2B or B2C. It all about People2People.

I highly recommend this podcast for all agency management and new business professionals. It is especially relevant if you are thinking of expanding into social media or alternatively, currently claiming to be experts in the space without really having the ware with all to honestly deliver.




Call To Arms, No More Ad Agency RFP’s!

September 3, 2009

call to arms

Is now the time to fix the RFP process? Historically ad agencies have always done their level best to scratch each others’ eyes out as they give away the farm competing for a new account. In this tough economy it’s only getting worse.

I and so many others have written about this subject over the years. The AAAA’s tried some time back to entrench a set of best practices that no one paid any attention to. The whole process remains a free for all where anything goes and in the current economy the larger agencies are even fighting over scraps they would not even have sniffed at two years ago.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars of work continue to be given away for free by agencies while clients continue to pay only for the chosen agency’s work and then leverage the euphoria of the win to negotiate a bottom dollar compensation agreement with the agency. The agency costs incurred during the pitch are most often ignored resulting in the agency having to dig itself out of a financial whole at the outset of the relationship.

For those agencies that did not prevail, the pitch becomes just another “investment” that adds to their overall new business strain and has to be funded by either existing clients, reduced agency profitability or a combination of the two. If agencies on average have a success rate of 3/10, that leaves seven lost pitches that have to be funded. It’s an unsustainable model.

Joseph Jaffe, Chief Interrupter at Crayon, recently wrote an article for Adweek entitled “No More RFP’s”. In his article he lists what he calls “10 points or calls to action…Arguably even calls to arms”.





Is Twitter A Viable Source For Ad Agency New Business?

August 31, 2009


According to ComScore Inc., Twitter attracted 21.2 million U.S. visitors in July, up 783,000 from the previous year. Right now only 26% of companies use social media for business purposes, but 70% have plans to jump in according to a recent Russell Herder Survey. However, just getting involved does not guarantee you success. Twitter is so new that it is almost impossible to predict what will succeed and what might be an embarrassing failure!

Twitter is still a relative black box and I am very skeptical of anyone who claims to know how to leverage Twitter in a business setting. According to Jeffrey Kalmikoff, Chief Creative Officer for Threadless, nobody has any idea of what they are doing on social media. “It’s just how comfortable your company is in taking risk. Some things pay off and some things don’t.”

What agency leaders have to get comfortable with is that to connect with your target clients on these new media like Twitter, you have to cede absolute control of your advertising message. A very uncomfortable feeling for agencies that have spent their whole lives perfecting one way conversations, versus generating open dialogues where consumers can be extremely blunt.

If you take a look what’s happening out there, there can be little doubt about Twitters ability to influence public perceptions and awareness. JetBlue’s recent Monthly Pass Promotion became a trending topic on Twitter just after it went live in market. According to Lindsey Petersen from JetBlue’s frequent flier program, they were “completely bombarded”. Less than 36 hours after launching the promotion they were concerned about having to pull the promotion due to a lack of seats.

And here is a great agency example. A couple of months ago Barry Judge, CMO for BestBuy, Twittered after a meeting that he had just met with two people from Crispin Porter and that he thought that the agency was “the smartest agency on the planet”. The chatter that ensued from that tweet about Crispin was pretty amazing.

In my day to day discussions with various agencies, I find that:

  • Some feel that Twitter is waste of time because it is full of inane chatter between people that do not matter or have no influence.
  • Others are a little scared of it and to be quite frank are not sure how to get involved.
  • There are those who are involved but really do not use it seriously. They too send inane tweets and have no plan or strategy.
  • There are those few who are serious about Twitter. They have a plan, they are active, experimenting and making an effort to make it work. Some are even reporting some significant successes.

So, you can choose to sit on the sideline and wait for the “fad’ to pass, and maybe it won’t. Or, you can get involved, take some risks, experiment and find out for yourself if it works for you. You will never know until you try.





Naked Brits Lead Current Ad Agency Communications Planning Trend

August 26, 2009


The days of brand agencies aspiring to be the “Lead Agency” are fast disappearing. Clients are increasingly turning to specialist communications planning agencies, to help them take a more informed approach to their integrated marketing initiatives. In many instances, the work of these truly media neutral agencies informs and directs all other roster agency assignments and work.

In the US we experienced the “British Invasion” from a music perspective during 1964-66, with bands like The Beatles, Rolling Stones and The Kinks. Right now we are experiencing another British Invasion of a different sort: Brand Communications Planning agencies.

These agencies do no creative work or execution whatsoever. Some have developed very powerful planning tools/models, powered by a significant database of both quantitative and qualitative data, related to over 90 distinct marketing channels. They are channel planning experts and are probably the only breed of agencies who can honestly claim to be media neutral.  

One of the leaders of this invasion is a company called Naked Communications. A quick word of warning, do not go to after reading this post. It will only help to put you on the radar screen of your IT and HR department for improper use of the internet. (They have two distinct websites: and There are a number of others out there that all hale from the UK and have similarly bizarre names.

While most other agencies are out there running around claiming to be full service, fully integrated, media neutral and 360 degree agencies, specialist communications planning agencies, like Naked, are quietly and effectively taking control of more and more large advertising and marketing accounts. Early in 2008 Naked made the trade media headlines when they were awarded the Kimberley-Clark account. Take a look at what K-C said about the appointment in their press statement.

Tony Palmer, CMO at K-C, said in a statement that producing marketing efforts built around TV commercials is no longer relevant in today’s business environment. “It is incumbent on clients to take an active role in reshaping the model,” he said, adding that hiring Naked is a step in this direction. Naked’s role is to help K-C and its agency partners identify the best communications channels it can leverage, to execute specific brand programs.

Agencies like Naked usually do not replace the client’s lineup of creative and media buying agencies. Instead, Naked works like a consulting firm, advising on how to best use the roster agencies. This may cut into the revenue of traditional agencies. Kimberly-Clark, for example, did not increase its ad agency budget in order to pay for Naked’s services. Instead, the company “reallocated the spending” according to Hedy Lukas, Vice President for Integrated Marketing at Kimberly-Clark.

Not long after Naked’s appointment came the announcement from Kimberley Clark that it had decided to move a quarter of its spending into non-traditional media.

Not something a “traditional lead agency” would be likely to recommend.



Ex Ad Agency Executive Demonstrates the Real Power Of Social Media.

August 20, 2009

If you were not convinced about both the power and effectiveness of social media before, I am sure that after reading this post you will be. Here is an example that demonstrates just how effective social media can be when used correctly.

70,000 Advertising professionals have already been laid off in the current recession. The worst I have experienced in nearly 30 years of being in the business. It has impacted both client and agency people alike and has reshaped our industry forever! If you just sit back and consider this statistic, it’s nothing less than mindboggling. Many are talented individuals with years of experience under their belt, and unfortunately, many will not be returning to our industry.

The recession has brought into question many of our values and priorities as individuals, consumers and employees. It’s caused many of us to move from materialistic to minimalistic and reassess what’s important to us and what is not. It’s driven significant changes in overall consumer behavior and impacted where and what they spend their money on. The recession is changing the way we do business and how we manage our businesses.

Most importantly it has forced many of us to reconsider our life’s purpose and what we ultimately want to achieve during it. We have all heard the truism, “When Life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  If you have not already heard, the movie “Lemonade” is going to be released sometime in September 2009. In essence, it’s a 30 minute documentary film that showcases the lives of former advertising professionals from the time they were fired through to how they used their dismissal as an opportunity to discover their dreams.

While I am certain that the movie itself will be of interest to you, the story behind it is even more fascinating.

  • It all started when a 37 year old copywriter from Arnold (Eric Proulx) was laid off during October 2008. (The third time in less than 10 years)
  • He started a blog called “Feed The Animals”, to serve as a venting ground and support system for other ad people who had been laid off.
  • After launch he decided to make a promotional video. The people and stories for the video all came from a call for submissions on Twitter.
  • He was going to conduct interviews himself using a handheld camera, however due to all the buzz, Picture Park, one of Boston’s largest commercial film companies sent a tweet offering their expertise.
  • Using Twitter, Proulx recruited an entire volunteer film crew.
  • He put an open letter on his blog and sent out a tweet that said “if @virginamerica got retweeted enough, maybe they’ll consider donating flights.” Not only did the airline come through, but A-level photographers also came through.
  • The film will be released free on the web even though that automatically disqualifies it from most documentary competitions.

Consistent with his overall approach, Proulx said, “I’d rather have a million laid-off viewers than 500 at a film festival!”

What Sparks An Ad Agency Review?

August 14, 2009

Ad Agency review

The most feared event for every ad agency leader is that dreaded call from a key client, informing you that they have decided to put their advertising account into review. Behind the decision are normally numerous factors, some controllable from an agency perspective and some not.

If you have been following my blog, by now you will have heard me go on about minimizing client churn ad nauseam. That’s because I consider it, without doubt, one of the most important pillars in my “Five Pillar Agency Growth Strategy” approach. Churn has to be proactively managed and supported by robust “Key Account Strategies”.

Some of the causes that lead to a review are beyond the agency’s control. In such cases there is really nothing you can do to prevent it from happening. There are others though, that fall into the controllable category and can therefore be minimized or at least influenced by agency management.

Let’s start with some examples of the uncontrollable.

  • New CMO comes on Board
  • Client company merger or acquisition (change in control)
  • Global ad agency realignment
  • Disappointing business results
  • Geographic relocation
  • Term of contract expires and regulations require it to go out to tender
  • Unprofessional behavior on the part of a client or agency staff member.

Now let’s focus on some of those that are controllable.

  • Lack of pro-active thinking and fresh ideas
  • Lack of integration of ideas. The agency works in silos versus working for the greater benefit of the client/brand.
  • Lack luster work that fails to deliver the expected results.
  • Client driven by ROI, analytics and measurement, while the agency remains focused on creative, gut feel and fails to embrace metrics and measurement.
  • Excessive turnover within the account service team leading to client dissatisfaction.
  • The need for new or additional capabilities, channels or media that the agency is perceived to or does not have.
  • Disconnect between the brand strategy and the creative execution.
  • Perceived gap in the client/agency relationship from a price/value perspective.
  • Noticeable lack of innovation and innovative thinking around the brand.
  • Agency perceived as not flexible or agile enough.

Every one of the causes listed above can help trigger the decision to put the account up for review. The biggest contributor however, (although not always stated directly), is the clients perception that the agency does not share their worries and ultimately does not care if they succeed or not.

Leslie Winthrop from AAR Partners tells this amazing story about a client company that approached her about conducting an agency review for their advertising account. On further questioning the client told Leslie that they were happy with the work and results, liked the people and enjoyed working with them. Surprised by the answers Leslie asked why then did they want to hold a review? The clients answer was simply, “Because I do not think they share my worries and it does not appear to matter to them if I succeed or not. I feel that I am out there on my own.”

Makes you think doesn’t it?  



Words of Wisdom from The Ad Agency Pitch Consultants

August 12, 2009

words of wisdom 2

The other day, I came across a collection of notes I had taken during various presentations, given by some of the top names amongst pitch consultants. The tips contained in them are as pertinent today as they were then, so I decided to aggregate a selection of them in one post and share them with all of you.

  • Think very carefully before deciding to defend when your client decides to put their account up for review. On average you have only a 1/18 chance of winning, so the odds are heavily weighted against you. (Dave Beals – Jones, Lundin, Beals)
  • If you believe that the client RFP is requesting excessive information, go ahead and push back, and submit what you are comfortable with. The most important thing you can do is look at the issues within the questions and adequately address them. ( Ann Billock – Ark Advisors)
  • Does size matter? It all depends. If the business being awarded is likely to overwhelm your agency, then yes it does. If the client needs an international network, yes. It’s about horses for courses. In some instances smaller can compete with big if they are able to leverage strategic partnerships. (Hasan Ramusevic – Hasan & Co.)
  • Every agency claims to have a proprietary process or philosophy. Bottom line is that there is just too much BS out there, as the agency world drinks its own Kool-Aid. Show them ideas backed by research and validate how you intend to produce results. (Lisa Colantuono – AAR Partners)
  • Do clients who ask for it really want and buy cutting edge work? Seldom does a counter a culture approach prevail. Ask more questions and try to validate their requests. If you are still unsure, then give them one of each so you are covered. (Ann Billock – Ark Advisors)
  •  Never stretch the truth when answering an RFP. If you feel that you have to in order to be competitive then pull out. Define what you cannot answer truthfully and ask the client or consultant why you were included on the list. It might be something specific you have that interests them, in which case focus there and leave out answers where you have to. (Lorraine Rojek – RCG Consulting)
  • How do we crack the clutter with our new business prospecting? The letter should address a specific challenge or opportunity. The supporting materials should do exactly that. Support the letter with a clear and consistent message based on actionable insights. The materials should also effectively differentiate your agency brand. Simple, easy to read and direct. No coffee table books, gimmicks or tchotchke! (Leslie Winthrop – AAR Partners)
  • Never include the prospects title in your new business materials unless you know it to be accurate. Titles change all the time and often many of the compiled lists are already out of date when you use them. (Cleve Langton – New Business 3.0)

Rocket science…No. Worth remembering…Yes





Obituary for Brand Advertising Agencies

August 11, 2009


obituary cigs

For years now clients have been encouraged by ad agencies to spend billions of dollars every year on brand advertising campaigns. Ostensibly in an attempt to drive sales. In his book “Obsessive Branding Disorder”, Lucas Conley refers to it as “The illusion of business and the business of illusion.” The digital world has helped to dispel many of these illusions, and hence brand advertising as we know it is no longer effective. The king is dead, long live the king.

Today we all live in that “Global Village”, where we are all continuously in contact with each other. It is almost impossible for a brand to create a brand perception that is different to that of the brand reality. Even if a brand claims to have incredible reliability, actual consumer experience will determine how they perceive the brand and how they describe the product to others.

There is not brand in this world that can outspend the consumer. Think about it for a moment. All those consumers are able to communicate their perceptions/experiences online at no cost whatsoever to themselves personally. The combined effect is exponentially bigger than any brands ad budget and far more credible from a consumer perspective too. Consumers have been empowered and they are speaking up.

Real brands do not need to shout out claims of who they are, nor do they need brand advertising to create their brand image. These brands earn their reputation through continuous innovation, great products and outstanding customer service. They continuously deliver on their brand promise. Their reputation is earned over time and acts as a beacon for new customers, helping simplify their purchase decisions. Today the brand experience determines the brands reputation.

In order to survive, let alone prosper, brand advertising agencies need to move quickly and change their business model, if they want to retain their long held role as “Brand Stewards”.  Recognizing this fact, Ogilvy & Mather evolved from “Brand Stewardship”, referring to it now as “360 Degree Brand Stewardship”. Today brand stewards are constantly tracking and listening to customer and consumer feedback. They have mastered the digital tools available and are always aware of what the customers think, are asking for, or suggesting.

No longer does a role exist for the traditional brand advertising agency. The king is dead. Long live the king. There is, however, still a role for a competent brand steward. It’s up to you to make the changes necessary if your agency wants to take on this more complex role.  




Three Ad Agency Pitch Approaches That Work

August 10, 2009

New business pitch

I have often heard the question asked, “What is the best way to structure an agency new business pitch?” My answer is that it always depends on the people, the environment and the time that you have available. Here’s why…

During my career, I have been involved in and led more new business pitches than I care to remember. Thankfully, more of them successful than not. My experience has helped me identify three different approaches, each one of them being successful, depending on the circumstances.

Give me your best work.

This is the scenario where you give the pitch team, and especially the creatives’ a clean sheet of paper and say have at it. Surprise me! The downside to this approach is that it is very difficult to review work internally under these circumstances. Any comment or criticism is often taken as a personal affront and leads to defensiveness on the part of the team.

This really only works well when you have a talented team that you completely trust, and are looking for breakthrough ideas-no matter the consequences.

Second guessing.

In this scenario, the team feels that if they can second guess what the pitch leader or client wants, they will create the best work without having to endure unnecessary negative feedback or criticism. The problem with this scenario is that, in most instances, the team has not bought into the work and therefore has little to no ownership. In addition they are unlikely to deliver anything more than what you expect.

This works when you are completely in charge, know what you or the client wants, and are in a time crunch.

Collaborative excellence.

This requires a collaborative environment that includes team participation from both agency and client alike. In this scenario the focus of the combined team is on producing great work that delivers results. For this to work, there has to be an open environment, mutual respect, and cross functional team cooperation. The downside to this scenario is that it requires a considerable amount of time – more than is commonly available. 

This approach is ideally suited to situations where you have a dedicated team composed of experienced and mature people, and enough time to allow the required dialog and interaction.