Sunday, January 18, 2009

Client choices and new economic reality

Massive potential. In need of some modernisation. (pic tx flame girl)

Ad agencies are sitting on an immense storehouse of acquired marketing knowledge. It represents a massive opportunity, yet with somewhat cruel irony it's a giant effing albatross about your neck at the same time. And this storehouse albatross creature has, erm, come to a fork in my no-longer-sustainable metaphor.

So whaddya do? Take the more familiar route? Does your agency lean back into the complacent arms of its upper management, who just got down with the autorespond function on their email last week? Pump the ATL for a few euro more, even though you know it'll be a few less this year?

Or do you listen to the annoying tweet of the Head of Digital or the Integration Dept or the Web Guy or whatever you mirthfully call the person who's been doing nothing but surfing the web and attending pointless 'networking' programmes (and possibly goat sacrifices in a back room in Buswell's for all you know)?

  • Here's my guess on your inclinations: the digital dweebs have been banging on about it for three years now, and apart from a few banner ads which frankly your studio could've - and probably did - put together, they've not really done anything to impress you or your clients.

  • Here's my gut feeling: quite a few boards in quite a few agencies are stuffed with people who have no intention of immersing themselves in new media. Ever. They're either indifferent or scared shitless by the gradient of the curve. Either way, their inner voice's advice is to ride it out and stick with what they know until carriage clock time. And they just might get away with it too. But you pesky kids won't.

  • And here's my unasked-for advice: listen to the digi dweeb, for they will inherit the client.

are behind the curve, your clients know more about it than you do, and they're not going to pay for the indulgences of the old school any more. They cannot afford to. But to your immense advantage, you have this massive storehouse of traditional marketing knowledge which, if correctly applied in new Ireland, is still highly relevant. A woman I have great respect for, someone steeped all her professional life in the digital world, casually observed last week that the web doesn't change personalities one bit. It models our behaviour were her exact words. We remain us. And we are still local consumers. We aren't suddenly robots because we have a Bebo or facebook account. If you cannot take that knowledge you have and use it to communicate with your clients' customers, in a few new media that really aren't that hard to understand if you have the will, then you are going to lose your clients one by one, and your agency will join the next wave of stubborn fossils in waiting.

It is already happening. It happened to me last year. Redundancy was like a too-proud man's trip to Specsavers. I came out blinking and humbled, but I could see. Strangely, the thing that I could see most clearly was this fucking weird storehouse albatross creature that had a name that ended with Advertising Agency. And I'm very pleased that it happened. I have never felt more optimistic for the future, and I'll be using every little bit of analogue knowledge kept in my personal marketing storehouse. This week I have the opportunity to work on what are known less and less among clients as new social media platforms. Two of these clients will be working out the most effective and efficient ways to add blogs to their websites and a third will be allocating more spend to email marketing. And I will be lepping to help like a man who's just had powdered jalapeƱo peppers sprinkled on his piles.

Corporate bloggers such as these recently merged US banks know that blogging represents an excellent way to build and foster closer customer relations, with a very palatable cost relativity. It has long-term brand implications and possibilities and will be treated by knowing marketing pros not as a panacea but, quite correctly, as just one more tool in the box. For the company who's email marketing, they already know about the return on investment it delivers. Marketing Profs says that 'a 2008 Direct Marketing Association (DMA) study found that email's ROI in 2008 was $45.06 for every dollar spent on it.' Them's 2008 figures, and bear in mind that the Americans were in recession before us.

I'm not dissing ATL. It's still vital. But you already know that clients are rushing to tie off that gusher right now. Budgets are downer than a James Blunt house party. They will return, but for now accountability is a whole lot more important. In the meantime, position yourself to make the biggest bang for your client's buck. And stay focussed on positivity, because while the glass may be half full, it's not full enough yet. That one's stolen from the Economist, below, slide 51.

Say it with me now: I am not afraid I am not afraid I am not afraid. New media do work, and they will work for your clients too. If you're hung up on creativity you don't need to worry. Creativity hasn't changed, just the crayons. But they need to be picked up first. Pick up the crayons.

View SlideShare presentation (tags: branding recession)
Thanks to Paul Dervan for finding this one.


  1. Great post, Nick - the ROI on email marketing figures from Marketings Profs is pretty astonishing.

    I think everyone can accept that there's limited money to be spent. Our job as consultants is to ensure clients spend that limited money wisely - and get results.

  2. It means smaller fish taking more from bigger fish. So bigger fish have to learn to be smaller fish too. The figures are fairly gobsmacking on that rate of return. Possibly sweetened by the DMA, but that much? I doubt it.