“We don’t do guerrilla,” says a big agency in NYC, they also “don’t do web” and, no, you have to hire a design firm to do your collateral- we’re an Advertising Agency (with capital “A’s” for effect). When you get to local agencies, it’s even worse- at least around Dayton Ohio and vicinity (that would be Columbus and Cincinnati too) where they don’t even get the advertising part right.
Selling isn’t something companies can do part time. By that, I mean, your brand must live 24/7 in the world- that means on store shelves and the customers cerebral cortex. Your employees should eat, sleep and breathe your product. Think about the employees at Harley Davidson, Apple, Nike – do you think anyone rides a Yamaha into Harleys HQ or anyone is using a Dell that works at Apple- or running a marathon in Reebok’s if they work at Nike- the answer isn’t no, it’s hell no.
So- if your agency can only do one part of the dance that is critical to marketing in these days of fractured media and message overload, you may as well just give up. It ain’t going to happen. Driving your message home isn’t about creating a campaign today, run it for the next six months and work on the next one. It’s rapid fire and maneuver, because if you aren’t shooting your message at your target, your competition is.
There is no one magic media; there is no one great ad that will sell it all. You put an ad out there and you start working on a new angle to hit the market in a different way. You won’t be able to score the same way twice, the landscape changes too quickly.
So, what is a brand manager to do? A couple of things have to change- it’s time to pay for creative- and pay well, forget about the media commissions, how was anyone supposed to really make money on a 15% commission anyway? The rest of the world works on 40 points, so, if you think 15% is going to get you great ads- instead of great media bills, you can go home right now.
The scope of the work should change too. It’s not about just ads- it’s the whole experience that has to match. Expect the website, the brochures, the field work- all to have the same consistent voice, coming from the same people- the agency in partnership with the brand manager. It used to be called “integrated marketing communications” - now the “total brand experience” may be more apt.
It’s also critical to be flexible- to experiment with new media, new placement, new ideas, and especially a new honesty. Ads can entertain, but they also must inform. If you aren’t hitting an emotional chord with the audience while reaching for their gut and their brain at the same time, get back to the drawing board.
No one has time for ads anymore- they want to be part of something bigger. Your agencies job is to create that brand experience that makes the consumer feel a part of something bigger. Look at Harley Davidson’s Owners Groups (HOGS) or the Mac heads that will defend their computer to the death.
When an agency does get it, like Wieden + Kennedy got Nike, it’s a beautiful thing. So, instead of saying what an agency can and can’t do- find one that can Just Do It.