Are You and Your Agency on the Same Page?
Bill Fritsch on Advertising
A recently published Forrester Research report reveals that agencies and clients are far apart when it comes to rating the ability of the former to deal with changes in the way consumers respond to advertising messages. Not surprisingly, agencies give themselves high marks. Research, however, suggests that marketers are less than enthusiastic.
According to the Forester Research report, Help Wanted: 21st-Century Agency, Firms with Vested Interest in Traditional Media Need Not Apply,* the chasm dividing their assessments is deep and wide. Author Peter Kim summarizes the findings from qualitative interviews with 141 marketing and advertising agency executives this way: Agency executives rated their expertise with consumer behavior, Internet advertising and consumer-generated media far more positively than marketers did. (Agencies, perhaps it is time to dust off your client report cards and hone your listening skills!) The good news, however, is that most marketing executives still see their Agency of Record as a strategic business partner and the greatest overall influencer of the marketing communications budget.
But the fact remains that today’s consumers are less reliant on advertising and more knowledgeable about almost every purchase they make. With credible information just a Google search away, and recommendations from social groups as easy to gather as a quick phone call or e-mail, consumers are changing the way they make purchase decisions. Moreover, according to Kim, “Consumers shun advertising because of recent clutter, interruption, and irrelevance.”
Because of this shift in consumer behaviors and attitudes, marketers have been stepping outside their traditional agency relationships to seek resources that offer expertise in new media. Yet, Kim is quick to point out, marketers are not finding this solution ideal. Internal departments and new media independents often lack the clear understanding of brand, merchandising and communications integration that reside in the AOR. This leads to less than optimal results.
Kim’s findings are corroborated by leading agency pitch consultants. In “The New World of New Business,” a presentation to Worldwide Partners, Catherine Bension, CEO of Select Resources, described the frustration marketers feel at their own inability to fully grasp the myriad media choices and channels the new marketplace provides. Many marketers simply don’t believe their agencies are able to provide credible and effective counsel as to the best possible communications expenditures in this age of consumer-generated media.
The 2007 Yankelovich Consumer Monitor further underscores this wholesale shift, as consumers show greater interest in making more informed decisions in almost every product category. Consumers are no longer content to get information from ads, and are taking a “prove it” approach to product claims. Today almost 60% of consumers are proud of their ability to see through “exaggeration and hype,” up from under 40% just three years ago. This is an amazing shift in attitude by a vast number of people.
But does this mean that traditional advertising doesn’t work? Absolutely not. However, it strongly suggests that today’s communications programs must be carefully orchestrated across all media, and, quite frankly, this kind of orchestration is simply not happening as well as it should.
How do you know if your communication plan is as strong as it could be?
Consider conducting a thorough communications audit. Include work from all departments and creative resources, both internal and external. Review all broadcast communications, print everything else, and stick as much of it as possible on a wall. Invite your corporate executives to comment and ask some basic questions. Does every single communication look like it’s coming from the same company? If not, why not? Do individual campaigns work across advertising, Internet and public relations efforts? Is there a common thread that ties these various media together? Could your organization’s departments have worked more effectively together? Did you miss opportunities to create a “viral” wow factor that could have garnered free attention on the Internet? Are your various external partners working from the same strategy? Or are they developing independent strategies and working at cross-purposes?
You get the idea.
Power and ROI come from gathering the best available information on emerging media and strategic approaches then working together to present unified, coherent and compelling messaging to the world. Few companies are run so well that they cannot gain immediate improvements by looking rationally at their entire program and demanding more effective collaboration as they incorporate exciting new media into their communications’ plans.
Seattle and San Francisco. Clients include eBay, Microsoft, Hidden City Games, Aegis Living.
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