With so many marketing tools and media channels available in today’s digital world, you may be overwhelmed by the options. So, we’d like to shed some light on one underdog of a choice that we’ve found extremely useful.
Let’s face it, sometimes considered “spam” or “junk mail,” email marketing started out of the gate with a bad rap. However, if strategically planned and executed following the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act policies enforced by the Federal Trade Commission…email marketing can provide an efficient and cost-effective way for you, no matter your company’s size, to make genuine and helpful connections with your audience of customers and prospects. It can also help boost your company’s SEO.
The icing on the cake is how response results are easily and quickly generated and how automation can play a key role in testing messages. Response data provides incredible insight about your audience including how individuals and groups respond to your messaging and how they relate to your brand.
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As ad professionals with both client side and longtime agency experience, we’ve often wondered about the lack of pretesting done on ad campaigns. Doesn’t it make sense to gauge the perceived value of advertising among its intended audience before final production and media money is spent?
As the size of the advertising budget grows, the stakes get higher. Without pretesting, you may never discover potential messaging flaws. You could easily spend good money failing to get the audience’s attention. Or even worse, you could succeed in getting attention only to create the wrong perception. Either way, a loss of awareness and sales will likely result.
Here are our responses to some of the typical objections raised regarding pretesting of ads:
- Pretesting is expensive. Yes, it costs money. But in our experience, it’s worth it. If necessary, reduce media spending somewhat to cover the cost. More often than not, pretesting will pay for itself by helping you spend your ad dollars more effectively.
- Research results don’t always reflect a participant’s real beliefs or behavior. This is typically attributed to the fact that pretesting is done within an artificial setting, encouraging respondents to assume the role of “ad critic.” Fortunately, there are pretesting techniques to help prevent this problem, and skilled facilitators know how to use them.
- Ad pretesting is only for consumer brands. Most B2B campaigns have the same needs for proper messaging as those aimed at consumers. The wrong messaging can create just as many problems for a B2B brand as it does for a consumer one.
- “I don’t want to base my marketing decisions on such a small sample of my market.”We’re not suggesting that pretesting should be a go or no go decision-making tool. Used properly, pretesting will add a dimension to your own judgment and creative capabilities—giving you a well-balanced and more informed conclusion.
Instead of expecting agency and client personnel to be mind readers, why not ensure your advertising is effective and your money well spent? Granted, pretesting may not provide a foolproof guarantee of campaign success. But it can prevent major errors. Most likely, it will identify possible improvements to the advertising that will help it deliver better ROI.
This March, PeakBiety branding + advertising proudly celebrated its 25th year in business. But more important than what this milestone means to us, is what it means to the clients we serve. In an industry where some ad agencies barely outlast the campaigns they create, our longevity gives our clients the assurance of a successful track record.
Specifically, it means:
- In our 25 year history, we’ve solved a myriad of marketing problems—maybe even the one that you’re facing right now.
- Our full-service experience has taught us how to analyze a communication problem and come up with the best solutions, unlike specialty shops that offer only one-dimensional solutions.
- We’ve gained 25 years of media experience from print to TV to digital, allowing us to create multi-media campaigns that use each medium to its full advantage.
- We’ve adapted to 25 years of industry changes, making us quicker to adapt to future ones
- We’ve earned the respect of our clients, many of which repeatedly turn to us to create strategies that change perceptions.
- We’ve consistently succeeded in engaging audiences through unexpected creative expressions.
To all those who have played a role in our successful history, we’d like to say thank you. And to those who wish to benefit from our longtime experience in the future, we look forward to putting 25 years worth of knowledge to work solving your next marketing challenge.
What’s best for your business? If you consider yourself a small or medium-size advertiser, the strategic choice may be particularly tough. So let’s see…if you want what are termed the “best-in-class specialists” for today’s more complex marketing world, you’ll likely want to consider all or several of the following kinds of firms:
Collateral material (both paper-based and digital)
Creative ad campaign team
Direct marketing (both paper-based and electronic)
Media planning and buying group
Public relations shop
Trade show exhibit specialist/signage
Specialist firms are available in all of the above. So what should you do? It seems so logical to desire a team of “specialists.” It implies they know more…and you may think that their collective knowledge can help build a better marketing program.
The reality is that many companies (of all sizes) but particularly small and medium-size advertisers find the so-called specialist approach to be problematic for their marketing performance. But why?
- Here’s the first tough question. Who will coordinate all the specialists and all the points of contact? Who makes sure all are focused on the same strategy and timelines to meet various needs? Depending on the number of specialists…that coordination work perhaps could be a full time job all by itself.
- When you have an important new initiative or a hot issue to discuss, how quickly can you get several of the specialists together to discuss and exchange ideas?
- How do you get the specialists to talk to each other? Will ideas really be shared for the benefit of the client? Is it conceivable that each specialist might have their own agenda and want a larger share of the marketing budget pie? So who will “referee”?
- Do all the specialists have brand building training/experience? How well do they all understand the brand and the target audience?
- Speaking of coordination…does that person have integrated communications training? How strategically coordinated will the work be?
- Who selects all of the specialists? Who devotes the necessary time, energy and due diligence to make sure they are all qualified and do not present conflicts?
To be sure, marketers want the best agency partners—but reduction of complexity is also important to success. In fact, recent reports indicate that some larger advertisers are cutting the number of relationships for reduced complexity.
A single agency relationship can help ensure a well-integrated effort across all media platforms and markets. And, in so doing, the single full service agency can help enhance your efficiency…and perhaps your sanity. You train one group of people and keep them involved with your business and challenged to be forward thinking and focused on your brand. Hopefully, you can retain them a long time so they get really smart about your business. Your single point of contact will be more focused on specific solutions from all of today’s complex choices that are best for your business—rather than having bias or special interests. And your single point of contact allows the direction you provide to be defined once and know that it will be applied uniformly throughout the “specialists” within your one agency. Lots of “traditional agencies” that offer full service, have done so over time with an investment in people and skills to deliver on their promise. The concept of the full service agency is alive and well, particularly for the small and medium-size advertiser.
Clients and ad agencies alike long for greater trust in their relationships. And for some very good reasons. Most all marketing and ad agency execs believe that the best work results when clients trust their agency, the agency collaborates well and both parties work at sustaining a lasting relationship. So why doesn’t this happen more often?
In 2014, a major U.S. independent ad agency (RPA) partnered with USA Today to survey senior advertising agency and corporate/brand marketing execs to gain insight on how to strengthen their partnerships. The survey revealed some surprising insights:
- About two-thirds of both agency execs and marketing execs admit they don’t share the same definition of “creativity.” Wow! There’s an obvious need for some honest conversation on both sides. Part of this conversation should center on the creative strategy and its role of providing guidance for the development and assessment of the work. Getting agreement upfront on what the creative should achieve would help everyone involved more accurately judge its merits.
- A major difference exists between the agency side and the marketing side on the issue of speaking freely. A full 88% of marketing execs claim to speak their mind freely, even when uncomfortable. But only a distant 36% of agency execs believe that to be true. This indicates a need within agencies to develop more trust in their clients’ honesty.
- And last, the survey revealed that 76% of agency people felt their clients are afraid to take risks. Again, some honest conversation might help determine a comfortable ratio of risk to reward. One answer might be to pre-test the creative to provide assurance rather than discard a potentially strong idea.
Like all successful relationships, the client/agency partnership requires persistent hard work and honest communication. If we hope to foster lasting relationships and create ads that produce results, that effort is well worth making.
No doubt, you’ll have many criteria to examine in the selection of an ad agency. But there’s one key credential you may be overlooking. To make your search easier and to ensure a successful outcome, you need to ask prospective agencies this all-important question:
Is your agency a member of the 4A’s?”
Agencies that belong to the 4A’s (short for American Association of Advertising Agencies) have distinct advantages that non-members can’t match. Some of them are subtle. Others are quite meaningful.
Those differences include:
- 4A’s agencies have access to information resources such as on-demand research, continually and quickly available.
- 4A’s members meet rigorous qualifications for longevity, stability, ethics and service reputation.
- 4A’s members subscribe to the highest creative and business standards and, generally speaking, attract the most well informed professionals.
- 4A’s members are able to obtain guidelines on all marketing communications disciplines.
Currently, some 13,075 U.S. organizations claim to be advertising agencies. So how do you handle the overwhelming task of determining which of these so-called agencies best matches your needs? The answer isn’t likely to be found through an online search. Without a detailed background check, there’s simply no way to tell which of your search results are genuinely legitimate ad agencies.
Once again, the 4A’s has done the legwork for you with a free, easy-to-use agency search tool. Just go to www.aaaa.org and click “Agency Search” on the top menu bar. Once you’ve entered your search criteria, you’ll get a list of member agencies that meet not only your requirements, but also the strict requirements for 4A’s membership detailed above.
Focusing on 4A’s membership quickly brings your selection challenge down to:
- 680 respected agency brands in the U.S.
- 12 general advertising agency brands in the state of Florida
- A greatly narrowed list of two qualified agencies in Tampa Bay
Of course, we’re more than happy to narrow your choices even further. Just visit www.peakbiety.com to learn more about how our 4A’s recognized ad agency measures up to your needs.
Let’s just say your company has a superior product or service, a nice logo and a lot of smart, dedicated employees. Sounds like a great branding story is about to unfold. But maybe not.
One of the most common problems that our branding + advertising firm encounters is a brand that doesn’t stand for anything, nor aggressively promise anything to its potential audience. It’s just a name and logo. In short, we often find brand messaging either “wobbling” all over the place or mired in a sea of general platitudes—meaningless generic claims like “quality provider” or “one of the country’s leaders.”
The development of what is commonly called a tagline (and which we prefer to call a brand promise) is an important key to brand success. Why? Because the process of developing a brand promise requires a clear understanding of the brand’s position and what it stands for—to both internal and external audiences. The process starts with a clear-cut communication strategy to provide the proper guidance. Even then, the development of the right brand promise is no easy task. It must meet several important tests:
- Is it a succinct expression of the brand’s strategic main idea? Avoid the pitfall of wandering off the main idea simply because something sounds clever.
- Is it memorable?
- Is it easy to restate in conversation? Can you see yourself repeating it comfortably in a cocktail party conversation?
- Is it sustainable beyond your company’s immediate goals?
- Can your staff live it on a daily basis?
In this development process, don’t fall into the common trap of adopting a brand promise because it sounds cool or edgy. “Edgy” and “cool” won’t cut it if the line doesn’t communicate the brand’s central idea. Stay focused on the strategic requirement.
Did GE executives once think “We bring good things to life” was cool? Probably not. But it was strategically right. And because it was so well integrated into the brand, it became cool as a result. The ultimate test of a solid brand promise is not what sounds cool today…but what will become cool as you make it your own, over time.
Lots of advertisers wonder about this. Generally, with the idea of saving money. But whether you’re a small B2B or mega B2C company, you’re asking the wrong question.
Perhaps a better question to ask is: Can I afford not to have an agency media professional do our media?
Media planning and buying skills blend art and science. They require lots of experience with many varied media types, including new ones that spring up almost daily.
Here are the critical questions you should ask yourself to determine what doing your own media could end up costing you:
- Do I have a seasoned pro on staff, skilled in planning and negotiating? Is this person aware of going rates in a highly negotiable marketplace? And, also important, am I actually paying the media the same amount an agency would charge me without gaining the benefit of an agency to do the work?
- Do I have the internal resources to assess the proper media mix for optimal impact on my target audience? Media professionals in full service agencies have access to sanctioned media research. Can I, with only my internal resources, assess the proper media mix needed to optimize impact on my target audience? Can I objectively sort out the pros and cons of the “pitches” from various media?
- Besides the absolute costs I pay for a given schedule, am I receiving the maximum added value available? Skilled media buyers know how and when to negotiate to get values over and above the base schedule–added values that can be measured and quantified in precise terms.
- What about cash flow? Will I be asked to pay all or a portion of the schedule up front? Full service ad agencies are accredited and media charges will not be payable in any given month until the media runs.
- Who will monitor the schedules? Do I have someone I trust to suggest modifications? Handle make goods? Check the myriad of affidavits to assure proper performance against what was purchased? If shortfalls occur, who will handle the shortfall negotiations? Who will listen to the late breaking, often last minute opportunities presented by the media…some of which may be highly advantageous?
Armed with these answers, you can now make an educated decision on who is best qualified to handle your media. Almost always, an organization of any size is better off in the hands of an agency media professional. As an added bonus, you can reassign any internal media staff into more lucrative business-building opportunities.
Like the start of any relationship, agencies and clients come together with the best of intentions—each expecting a mutually beneficial outcome. Yet recent research shows that only about 40% of marketers are “truly happy” with their ad agencies. Repeated studies show that this dissatisfaction level stays about the same year after year. And just as alarming, only 55% of marketers say they would consider using their ad agency again IF they put their account up for review.
These statistics should sound the alarm for both advertisers and ad agencies alike. Think of all the time and money both sides invest in building a foundation for the relationship—all the hours spent on the transfer of information necessary to operate efficiently. Surely, there must be ways for these marriages to last long enough to recoup this substantial outlay
Here’s what both sides need to do to get the most from their initial investment of time and resources…
For client marketers, studies suggest a need to:
- Work harder at providing clear direction and access to information that can make your agency smarter.
- Be a good listener and show a willingness to experiment. Provide clear-cut feedback even when the news is bad.
- Expect accountability on money matters and pay in a timely fashion.
- Take time to review your agency the same way you’d review an employee. Tell them what’s going right and what areas need improvement. This will lay the groundwork for successful collaboration.
- Effectively coordinate efforts among multiple agencies if you have multiple resources. Don’t expect one agency to “magically” orchestrate and integrate the efforts of the others. OR, recognize the value of one full-service agency with a single point of contact.
For ad agencies, studies of advertiser views show that the focus must be on:
- Thinking strategically—finding new approaches to the client’s marketplace and/or communications with the target audience. Provide an objective viewpoint to help determine what the brand stands for.
- Gaining a better understanding of the client’s business and market. Better insight equals better strategies and ideas. And ideas don’t have to be just about ads.
- Developing unique creative solutions to execute the strategies defined, whatever the medium.
- Presenting multiple creative options in response to assignments. Go the extra mile.
- Offering a keen sense of today’s media choices and how to squeeze maximum value out of every dollar.
- Establishing effective collaboration. Whether it’s with one person, an entire in-house creative services group, a sales team or whatever, build relationships that result in better work.
- Maintaining good stewardship of money. Provide estimates. Be financially accountable.
A little extra time and initiative from both parties will go a long way toward avoiding an untimely and costly split. After all, learning to work effectively with an existing agency—one that’s already up to speed on your business–is always more cost-effective than searching for and training a new one.