Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How to use an RFP to find an ad agency

Almost nobody in the ad business likes RFPs.

And there is a movement afoot among some agencies to stop responding to the damn things. But, I'm afraid, very much like head lice and cockroaches, RFPs will be here long after all of us are gone.

We sent out an e-mail this morning with a link to a paper I wrote on how one might actually use an RFP to find an ad agency.

This piece itself is way too long to re-print here, but follow this link to our Particles of Thought e-mail and you'll be able to download a PDF on how those horrible things can actually be useful.

If there were only some way to link RFPs and crowdsourcing together, the world world truly be a better place. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The ad community lets itself down on a regular basis

Earlier today I got an e-mail from a friend asking if we could do a hurry-up job putting together some digital ads for web and mobile.

His client (he's a media company) decided at this late date to do some holiday promotion and the budget was limited . . .  and well, you get the idea.

So, even though the budget was less than it shoulda been, we said, sure, we'll help you out of a jam since you're a pal and all.

Then he came back to us a few hours later telling us that he didn't need us after all because they found "a publisher who will do it for free."  It's not like we'd have made anything on it, we were doing it as more of a favor than anything else. That's not what annoyed me. It's the "for free" part. And the fact that "you get what you pay for" is an alien concept to this client.

Which - at last - brings me to my point. 

It strikes me that our industry - marketing communications - is not held in very high regard by many businesses. (In other words by potential clients.)They tend to hire junior-level people to run the marketing, pay them very little, give them very small budgets to work with . . . and, of course, get everything free they can get from publications, stations or "publishers."

The Evil That Is Crowdsourcing is another example of this. 

Just tune in to almost any creative forum on LinkedIn to get an earful of examples of this problem.

It seems to me that local ad clubs and art directors' clubs could do their memberships a real service if they'd mount public service efforts aimed at educating the business public on the values of a) advertising and marketing communications (in whatever print, broadcast, digital or social media you may choose) and b) having it professionally developed and produced.

A rising tide floats all boats and all that. So it seems to me that just as Sy and Marcy Syms used to tell us that "an educated consumer is our best customer," the more the business public knows about the real value of professionally produced marketing communications, the better we'll all do.

I guess, though, if we're going to continue to let ourselves down and not make an effort to promote the value of what we do, we're going to get what we deserve. More station-produced radio and television, digital ads produced for free by a "publisher" and a continuing decline in budgets.

Perhaps local ad clubs would do well to start promoting the industry to the world of potential clients out there. There are some really smart, really great creative folk at work here in the D.C. market. If only some of that firepower were applied to help the community thrive.

I've always believed that marketing communications can be summarized in four words: "Do good. Tell people." As good as the ad community is, it's surprising we don't make more of an effort to tell people.

Sure as hell ain't nobody else gonna. 

Woody Hinkle

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I'm worth it. But you? Not so much.

OK, right up front, this image has nothing to do with today's topic.

But when I searched for "dollars and pennies" to illustrate this post, this is what came up with, and I really like it.

So there you go.

My topic today, fellas and gals is how interesting I think it is that so often organizations that charge a serious high price themselves want to go on the cheap for things like marketing communications or advertising.

If you ask these people why they charge so much more than the average in whatever their business is, they are almost insulted and will share with you several reasons why they are worth it. Most of them, I might add, are also good reasons why they should be happy to pay top dollar prices for top-dollar services.

Then - and often in the same meeting - they can't seem to understand why you're there charging them anything other than below-market prices for your services.

Honestly, there sometimes seems to be a inverse relationship between how much a company charges for its services and how much they are willing to spend to promote themselves.

What they don't seem to get is that when they take this approach, they are telling you "we're worth it, but you're not."

Thing is, in both cases, you usually get what you pay for.

I wonder how much the folks that make the Lucha Fuzz whateverthehellitis spend on their advertising.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

This may be a shock, but not everybody is 25 years old

At the risk of sounding like an old fart (I have no problem sounding like an idiot, because, as we all know, I am one of those, but I'm not such an old fart), I wish agencies would recognize that not everybody they need to be targeting is 20-something.

Seems like no matter what the product is, the concept, people in the commercial and humor, if there is any, is targeted pretty specifically at people Who Are Not Me. Which, in a way, tells me they don't want my business.

I believe in targeted marketing. I do. I believe that campaigns for Red Bull or Lite beer ought to be targeted to the demographic that drinks Red Bull and Lite beer.

But not everybody is in that generation. It just seems that the creative teams who do the work either are in that demographic or can't see past it. Or - and this is probably a big factor too - it's the old "let's do something really cool so we can win an award" factor at work. "Let's have a camel wandering through an office . . . "

Baby Boomers - make fun of them (us) mock our reluctance to act our ages, do what you want. But don't ignore the fact that more half the nation's wealth and more than $2.3 trillion in buying power is wrapped up in people born between 1946 and 1964. That's a lot.

Baby boomers dominate 1,023 out of 1,083 consumer packaged goods categories, watch 9-10 hours of video a day, comprise 1/3 of all TV viewers, online users, social media users, and Twitter users and are most likely to have broadband Internet access at home.

So think about who's going to buy that beer, use that credit card, test-drive that car or buy that insurance. Think about whether or not we're really going to respond to the same appeal as a 26 year-old will. Maybe one size doesn't actually fit all. Think about it.

And while you're thinking about it, get off my lawn.

Monday, January 28, 2013

I have a better question.

What on earth is this ad talking about? And WTF does the gas tank have to do with it?

And what man is going to read an ad with the word "castration" in it?

I guess I have another - somebody really spent real cash money for this?

I know, that's four questions. So come over and beat me up for it.

Friday, January 18, 2013


American Airlines re-brand.

The plans look cool. The spot(S)?

Boring and pretentious. Not much in here that tells a potential customer why anything is better for them.

Here's the :60.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Crowdsourcing is bad for many reasons

Let me start by pointing out that I'm something of a hypocrite.

I have competed in a crowdsourcing pitch or two - mostly because they are for radio and nobody seems to be hiring us to do much radio these days.

And I really like to do radio.

So I figure even if I don't win, I get an assignment to write a spot or three on my own time. And if I get anything, I get something.

But I still think crowdsourcing takes advantage of creative people by asking them - sometimes many of them - to do spec work. It just feels like they're taking advantage.

I guess in theory it's a "victimless crime", because a) the clients gets more (and different) ideas than they'd get from a single agency, b) the firm that puts it together makes some money, c) somebody gets the work and d) nobody is forced to do it if they don't want to.

Except that many of the people who participate in these things are creative people who are out of work or could use more work than they have and thus are willing to give it away in hopes of making some cash. And I really hate to see creative people taken advantage of.

Yeah, the many-ideas-and-you-only-pick-and-pay-for-the-ones-you-like is a great model for the client, but it's predicated on the proposition that people will take a shot at it for no guarantee of compensation.

But, like I said, nobody makes me or anybody else do spec work.

But here's the real problem I have with crowdsourcing. In many cases, it trains clients to expect a lot for a little. In the case of the people I have done a little bit of work for, if I "win" I'm making as much as our agency would typically charge for a radio assignment, but that's not always the case.

There is another firm that sends out briefs on a regular basis and they ask for fairly ambitious responses - not just some spec thinking but also all sorts of credentials stuff. And it's almost always low-ball. Like a recent one that was for a brand strategy and public relations campaign. Total budget is $5,000 and that includes the middleman's 20% cut. So it's really $4,000 for whomever does the work.

But what this means is that someone has told this client that they can get a brand strategy and PR campaign for $5,000. And if they can - which sad to say they probably will - how are they ever going to understand what they really, truly ought to be paying for this kind of stuff?

You know, I'm really not all that opposed to someone setting up a company to act as a sort of freelance agent giving people a chance to pitch for work. And if someone wants to do spec, that's their decision, you know?

And I believe that at least the one company I have worked with seems to have reasonable budgets - at least for radio.

But I get kind of queasy about anything that is going to condition clients to think they can "get it for less" just because there are so many people out there who could use the work that they will pitch it at any price.

Years ago, I was talking to another agency owner at a softball game and at the time, it was a real seller's market for creative talent. The dot-com bubble had yet to burst and it was pretty easy for writers and art directors to demand - and get - high salaries. "I'll be glad when the shoe is on the other foot," he growled.

Could be crowdsourcing is here to stay as the new and best model. Then again, if the economy gets moving and creative folk are working again, fewer and fewer are going to be willing to pitch spec work for bottom dollar.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Whaty's your brand score?

Your logo is not your brand. It's not your tag line either.

Or your web site, ad campaign or corporate colors.

A brand is a key differentiation around which you deliver a unique value. It’s a promise to customers. It tells people what differentiates you from everybody else and why they should do business with you. And it’s the most valuable thing you own.

Answer these 10 questions to assess whether or not your brand is working as hard as it can for you.

Enter 3 for “Yes”, 2 for “I don’t know”, and 1 for “No.”

1. Have you discovered what differentiates your company from your competitors?

2. Does this differentiation represent a reason to do business you?

3. Can you summarize it in a paragraph? A sentence? A phrase?

4. Does your distinction have value to your clients/customers and prospects?

5. Is this distinction communicated clearly to your clients/customers and prospects?

6. Are all employees in your company aware of this distinction, and is it explained to new hires?

7. Is your distinction clearly communicated in your marketing materials?

8. Is your pricing strategy based on client/customer perceptions of value?

9. Does your brand receive adequate marketing support?

10. Do you use your brand in determining business strategies?

So how did you do?

Your goal is to score 27 or better. You really don’t want to score less than 20. In between, there’s some opportunity there for your brand to work harder than it does.

In any case, this can give you an idea of what you see as your brand strengths and weaknesses.

Read more about Brand Development and our approach to it here.