Thursday, July 8, 2010

I have one dentist who does the top teeth, one who does the bottom ones, a third one who cleans the crowns, and some guy who advises on flossing.

Like many of our brethren and sisteren in the ad business, we're hustling for new business as hard as we can.

And one thing we see and hear just makes me scratch my head in disbelief.

We'll run across hotels, CVBs, tourism bureaus and companies in other market categories that have a PR firm, a web marketing company, sometimes a separate web design company and a media placement company. Or some combination of most of those.

What's missing here?

That's right, There is no creative company and nobody really developing or protecting the brand. It's a whole kitchen full of cooks and anybody in our business who has ever worked with a client that had other outside resources knows one thing for sure: more often than is good for the client, two or more of them are going to be fighting to be the Alpha Dog in the arrangement.

The public relations people will tell you that they ought to drive the bus. In fact, when I was in PR and got my APR from the PRSA (going with LBJ on the IRT down to 4th Street USA [where we saw] the youth of America on LSD . . . oh, never mind), we were told in no uncertain terms during review classes that advertising is a subset of public relations.

Except, as I have since learned, most PR firms do crappy advertising. Sorry, but it's the truth, and it you want to go out back and fight about it, we can.

Anyway, the PR people will sometimes tell you that they ought to drive the bus. Other times the ad agency wants to be behind the wheel. (And trust me on this, ad agencies can not do public relations.) Still other times, the web marketing people see no useful purpose for anything but the Internet and the media people, well I suppose they are usually not in the fight, since their role is pretty clear-cut.

The point is, nobody except the client is really in charge. Now, plenty of clients are perfectly capable of - and good at - being in charge. Except they often have lots of Other Things on their plate. And I'm here to tell you that too often, each of those outside companies can be found whispering in the client's ear like some back-stabbing Roman senator.

It's a working relationship that is not effective, it's not cost-efficient, and it makes a whole bunch of No Sense at All. OK, sure, I come from the ad agency side of things, but I've been a client. And a PR guy (with a suit and a tie and everything) and I just think it's a crazy, crazy way to do things.

Think about it. The best web site on the planet won't do any good unless people find it and know something about you when they get there. That's where the advertising and PR come in. The PR and advertising messages really had oughta be in sync. And so should the point of the web site (which is, of course, conversions, not just hits - but you knew that already).

Whatever advertising is done should be creative and compelling (hence the role of the advertising and design company), ought to support the brand (here comes the brand development function) and the media needs to be based on the message as well as the target. Which means there sure better be some back-and-forth between the creative people and the media people.

There are plenty of times when the media is part of the creative strategy if you do it right. And that's not going to happen very easily if the media company and the creative company are in different cities, different states or even have different names on the door.

These are not economic times when anybody can afford to waste any money. Which is precisely what I think this all-hands-grab-a-broom-and-do-something approach does.

So there are two things here. It helps immeasurably if everybody is on the same page, and it seems to be like the advertising and creative function is the one thing you can't do without - or better not try.

Now comes the part some of you may consider to be a bit of parochial thinking. Creativity is the most practical tool available to a business today. (Actually, that 's a stone fact and not the parochial part. This next part is the parochial part.)

Neither a media company, nor a public relations firm is typically capable of delivering the kind of creativity necessary. And, to be honest, since one needs to be media-agnostic, neither is a web design firm or an Internet marketing company. You know, when your only tool is a hammer, every problem tends to look like a nail, and all that.

I'm not saying an advertising agency is always going to be the best and the brightest - unless it's us, of course. What I'm saying is that I don't understand why so often the people best qualified to create a clear brand and come up with a creative way to deliver it - the two most critical parts of marketing for my money - are left on the bench when the team takes the field.

Then again, as we all know, I'm an idiot most of the time.

(So what do you think? Wasn't that part about the bench and the team taking the field a real gem?)

1 comment:

TomCayman said...

Great blog... but I think it is all missing one major point, and that is that there has to be at least one senior marketing director at the client themselves who understand and co-ordinates all the agencies.. including the creative agency.

Stuns me how often you find multi-million dollar budgets with creative, PR, media, website and other agencies... and not one person of sufficient seniority and expertise working for the client themselves to pull it together.