I guess in marketing terms I'm an early adopter. Sometimes an innovator, but I can't really lay claim to that for too many things. Early adopter just seems to fit better. Seems like most of my career, I've seen things on the fringe, or even on the near sidelines, and have spend a huge amount of time trying to convince those around me that some variation on whatever it is would be useful for us/them, usually in their advertising. Sometimes, I've been successful.
Those things on the edges can be anything. Small, big, in-between. A photographic style, a copy attitude, an editing technique, a wardrobe style -- all the way to an emerging media platform, or a new product category.
The thing is, rarely have I worked for clients (or agencies) who are also early adopters. So to a lot of the people I've worked for, I probably seem more radical than I really am. (I'm sure some of them think I'm downright crazy.) I suspect most people who are also early adopters, and who are also in advertising or marketing, are in the same boat.
When you keep abreast of what's happening on the edges, things seem old before they hit the mainstream. Things seem obvious, or even commonplace, to you -- before they're even on your clients' radar. If you're working on Apple, or Go Daddy, or even a small entrepreneurial client, convincing him/her/them to take a leap is a vastly different process than if you're working for the average marketer in your average market.
Average marketers, or average agencies, for that matter, don't automatically pick up on new stuff very easily. Or early. Sometimes when they finally do, it's kind of funny. Sometimes, though, it's too late.
Here's an example: More than a few times, with major agencies, and major clients, I've found myself wheedling, cajoling, begging, whatever - to convince them to incorporate an emerging film style or technique in a spot. Not just because it's new, but because it fits the concept perfectly, enhances the communication, and looks vastly different than the competition. Let's call it "Film Technique X". In many of these cases, I've succeeded. So, the campaign gets shot, with this radical new "Film Technique X" everyone's afraid of....and, surprise of surprises... it works.
Fast forward to the next year, or even the year after that. Now the style isn't radical. Now the style is commonplace, and everyone's using it. Now the style is a bad idea - because the campaign has run its course, and the new campaign won't get the same benefits. In fact, it'll hurt the new campaign, because the style has become cliche. So what do you suppose are in the specs for the job? Something to the effect of "must be completed with Film Technique X" -- and usually, there are visual examples to explain, just exactly, what "film technique X" is. They almost never include a reference to their own spot -- they've forgotten that they even used the technique.
But it's also not so great for the resulting communications piece. Now, you're making something that looks just like everyone else.
Getting a client who's not used to considering new things, to consider (or even use) new ideas is hard. And can be really frustrating. So, here are six things I try to remember:
1. What's new to you is completely foreign to them. What's pretty normal to you is pretty new to them.
2. What's pretty normal to you still hasn't hit the mainstream yet. So it's not really normal yet. It's just normal to you.
3. People like to take baby steps before they take running leaps. Baby steps might not push your client to the forefront of anything right now. But they will give her confidence to maybe take a running leap next time. Then she can jump over the competition.
4. What's new now, won't be soon. There will be something newer. Sooner than you think. If you lose this battle, it's not the end of the war. Refer to the baby steps, above.
5. "It's NEW" isn't a good enough reason for most clients. They want to know what it'll do for them. Present it in their terms, in language they understand. Don't talk down. But explain exactly how this thing they've never seen or heard of before is going to help them (or their advertising) work better. After all, that's the only reason to use any technique -- new or old.
6. Many clients (and many agencies) will not move from their comfort zone. Ever.
They will eventually become very low hurdles for their competition.
The fourth largest tractor manufacturer in the world.
We love tractors. Grew up on them.
We love ag. Same reasons - plus a degree, and a lot of experience.
And we love interactive. Because it's a great way to engage.
We showed them some ideas nobody else had shown them before.
Now, we have an agreement in principle to handle their interactive business.
Cool. Can't wait to get started.
Be nice. Try hard. Do your homework.
The rules of business, of advertising, of life... are simple.
It's an old concept. Robert Fulghum made a mint reminding people. We forget, though.
I got a call friday from a director's rep. She found Tangelo Ideas, I think, in the New York Times blurb, and did a search. Found the site, and had a quick look. So far, so good.
Thing is, before I could respond to her very quick hello, she launched into a sales pitch for several directors I've competed against for the last few years, before diving back into the agency world with Tangelo Ideas. She had no idea. She had been to the site - referenced some spots - but didn't have a clue that I have been a director for a really long time. There are a lot of directors. I don't expect her to know them all. But geez, my history and bio are all over the site.
Now, I have nothing against this rep. And nothing whatsoever against my former competition. Nor do I plan to thrust myself as a director onto any of our clients. I may shoot some things, when it's appropriate. But for me, the idea of Tangelo Ideas is about, well...better ideas. That's where I'm focused.
Still, I can't help but wonder why someone who's approaching a potential customer wouldn't do just about 30 seconds more homework (since you're on the site, anyway), so you at least seem a bit smarter to that potential customer. Fact is, some of the guys she reps are really good. They're guys we will probably consider, given the appropriate projects. But I'm going to hate rewarding the rep for what is, plainly, bad work.
How many agencies do the same thing when they approach prospective clients?
Do your homework.
TWO. Today in Media Post's newsletter, a survey reports marketers are slashing traditional advertising budgets in favor of non-traditional things like buzz. It's here.
THREE. Adweek, via Yahoo news, reports here that Mike Musachio has taken the helm of Tracey Locke's Connecticut office, and that he's real excited about combining nontraditional communications methods with advertising.
So what do all these have in common?
They're fuel for a rant.
When I wrote Use A Stick, I knew I was behind. Seth and Hugh had been blogging and talking, literally for years, about the fact that ad agencies just don't get the changes that are happening in the marketplace, and in the way people communicate. I agreed, and still do. But when I was writing, (a year ago, now) I figured I was catching on late. Just, not as late as the agencies.
I've seen the, well, downright dense decisions agencies have made on behalf of clients for years. I've seen those bad decisions increase, in light of rapid change. So I decided to write about it. Quite a few people paid attention, but not enough, clearly, to start a worldwide panic in the marketplace.
"Good," I thought. "Here's an opportunity." So Tangelo Ideas was born. Think differently. Think so far outside the box that it's as if a box never existed. Integrate everything. Traditional, non-traditional. Traditional web (yes, there is such a thing), and non-traditional, experimental net stuff. Non-net, non-media, non-whatever stuff that has no traditon whatsoever. Tell a different story a different way. Every time.
As an agency's positoning story, it's actually a difficult one to explain to a prospect. Especially when you're talking to clients who are used to a traditional agency's sound-bite explanations and quasi-guarantees of how and why things will work (fingers crossed), with excel spreadsheets of GRP's and focus-group data to back it up. It's an almost impossible story to tell to a traditional agency, and have it taken with more than a grain of salt. But difficult or not, quite a few clients, and potential clients, are listening to our very different story. They're interested in hearing more. We expect more to listen, the more they find that the same old fare isn't producing the results it used to.
So here's the rant: How come the revelation that the world is changing is such gee-whiz news in the trade press? Like I said, I thought I was late when I wrote about it a year ago. And a year in today's communication climate is a century by parcel post.
Keeping up is hard. It's hard for the agencies, it's harder for the clients, and, apparently, it's hard for people reporting on both. For agencies, clients, and the people who cover them, doing what you know is easy. It's comfortable. It's got a proven track record. Only one problem: it doesn't work anymore.
The web, and better thinking in other non-web, yet non-traditional venues, has made new ideas easy to try, easy to assess, and easy to modify. By the time the trade press writes about them, though, the new ideas aren't new anymore. They're a trend. A trend is when lots of people do the same something. Lots of people doing the same something as you isn't a good formula for advertising. A story in the trades about a new cool technique is fun to read. But it's rarely a direct map to the edge.
If you're a client, and your agency isn't pro-actively bringing you ideas for communications that you've never heard or thought of, they're behind. If you're not putting at least some of your marketing dollars (even a drop in the proverbial bucket) into developing new avenues to engage your prospects, you're behind.
That may not be the feel good handshake/smile/martini you're getting from your current agency. In fact, it's more than probably not. Because it'll mean more hours for them, working on stuff that's difficult, at best, to figure out how to make money on with their current formulas. Besides, they don't want to upset you. But it's true. And the sooner you believe it, the less chance you'll be left behind completely. Keeping up is hard. But it's important.
I'm not suggesting that you throw the baby out with the bathwater. Not by a long shot. Regular advertising still works. It just works better with other stuff now, than it does without. Your advertising mix is more like soup than bathwater, anyway. Only now, your prospects tastes have changed. So you have to add more ingredients. To keep from being bland.
It's Mardi Gras time. The first parades here were yesterday. For the next week and a half, my kids are going to do nothing but count strands of beads, to see who got the most at what parade. I love Mardi Gras. My kids love Mardi Gras. You can tell from the pic.
But a week from Fat Tuesday, the beads will be meaningless. Forgotten. Next.
Exciting for a moment, but with very, very little lasting value. Trinkets.
Some ad campaigns are built. Designed to brand, designed to last.
Some are tossed out there. The latest gimmick.
Brands require building. Trinkets get tossed.