Ad Agencies Have Become A Commodity

: Sherrie Perkovich

Yes, the very idea that ad agencies, or any company that is in the service business, can become a commodity is life threatening news. I read such news today in an article in the South Florida Business Journal titled "Virtual Ad Agency Gives Glimpse of the Future."

To their credit, this company has figured out a way to serve the under-served low budget clients that typically end up creating marketing/advertising material themselves....and then wondering why it doesn't work. With more and more small and home businesses being launched, there certainly is a market for this sort of thing.

However, it pains me to see incredibly thought through strategic planning and creativity whittled down to a mere mathematical formula. We give you enough options and you won't have the same ad as someone else. We give you enough options, and you're still going to end up with crap.

We as an industry need to put more emphasis on our intellectual property and experience and less on low budget, low value propositions to "just get something in the market." With the on-going debate about being compensated for proposals and Agency Valuation that the 4As is spearheading, it is essential that we do not undervalue our service.

Otherwise, in my next post I'll be asking you if you want to supersize your order.


Finding the White Space

:Sherrie Perkovich

Its not news that marketers are under contstant pressure to keep finding new and interesting ways to reach our client's target audiences. With the introduction of seemingly daily media choices, our task is a great one.

I recently read a MSN article that spoke of marketers nearly over stepping their bounds to put our ads anywhere where there is available "white space." I agree with this, but only to a point.

Yes, its true that we are not only advertising in places that are surprising and walking the line of obtrusion. But we also now, thanks in part largely to technology, are able to serve you up advertising messages that you actually want to see.

Advertising has an exciting future. And the future is in behavioral marketing. Instead of trying to merely find available white space to brand with our messaging, we can pinpoint advertising based on your consumption behavior. The beginnings of this trend are seen in search advertising. But search is only the beginning. Companies such as Tacoda are pushing the envelope on behavior targeting and leading the way to the future.

Serving up ad messages based on behavior is the key to truly being able to communicate to an already interested consumer. In the near future, gone will be the days of sitting through non-relevant advertising messages. And soon you'll be getting advertisments targeted to you as an individual consumer. White space that you never saw coming.


Nice Try TiVo

:Sherrie Perkovich

TiVo, long faced with their advertising issue...that being that viewers who use their product have the ability to skip through ads, thinks they've come up with a solution. TiVo announced today that they will offer a new service which will direct viewers to a screen after a show ends, where they will be given options such as getting a coupon code for a product or watching an advertiser's video.

According to TiVo and an article I read in the SF Business Journal today...they can now "help advertisers effectively engage a target demographic audience while substantially countering the impact of fast-forwarding commercials."

(insert bomb sound effect here) Nice try TiVo. What on earth makes you think that the viewers that are skipping through commercials in-program are going to hang around for the rolling credits and watch an ad then. Have news for you...they're either going to be on to their next recorded program or off the couch and onto the next thing.

How about a non-skipable intro commercial or mid-program? You won't be able to avoid viewers jumping off the couch and into the bathroom or kitchen, but at least you'll have a much better shot of keeping their attention...and those precious advertising dollars.


PR, Optimized

:Sherrie Perkovich

The lines between direct, online, PR and Search continue to blur. The old PR rules are gone. Web 2.0 and other online tools are the newer, faster, smarter ways to do business. Create ways for your audience (both your customers and the press) to connect. Use the web by leveraging learning and tools from your search strategy and apply to them your PR strategy online through the use of microsites and landing pages.

Take advantage of the tools that exist online in order to improve your press release rankings on search engines. Then, once you get traffic to your site, learn how they got there and what they do once they are there. Make it relevant. Make it clear and concise. Track, learn, optimize, and grow.

Use microsites/landing pages in order to:
- Improve your press release rankings on search engines
- Boost the popularity of your press release and/or company website
- Put your news ahead of others, maximizing your visibility
- Bring qualified prospects to your door

If you'd like to learn more, join me December 6th in Cupertino from 8:45-10:00am at the Business Marketing Association's December roundtable discussion where I'll be speaking on the topic of "PR - Optimized - Using Microsites in Your Online PR Efforts."


Marketing-eeze needs a swift kick in the pants

:Sherrie Perkovich

Ok marketers, especially B2B marketers and those in the professional services industry, many of you need a fast lesson on what is acceptable and unacceptable use of typical business imagery. I was exposed to many offenders today…whether online, in magazines or in presentations.

Case in point…typical marketing lingo/buzzword paired with the imagery used in marketing and/or advertising materials:

* Speed to market = someone crossing a finish line, arms in the air, ribbon around their chest
* Unique thinking = a light bulb, usually illuminated
* Collaboration = shaking hands, lately, woman and a man’s hand…have to be PC of course
* Competition = running a race, occasionally seen with baton passing or hurdles
* Unique value proposition = a red umbrella in a sea of black ones
* Productivity = a smiling executive at their computer, or also seen with the ear of their glasses in their mouth

By this standard, does retention = water weight gain? Enough is enough. Marketers, please please please, do not attempt to be creative on your own, especially with advertising. Leave that to the advertising experts. There are many agencies out there with thousands of creative teams to help you. I recommend you seek their advice before blending into the ho-hum non-unique selling proposition of looking like everyone else that doesn’t know what they’re doing.

For a bit more on my rants, this one specific to professional services and in particular the real estate industry, read my blog, “I am good-looking and therefore trustworthy.”


Aspire to be Nike and Gatorade

: Sherrie Perkovich

You don't have to be a company the size of Nike or Gatorade to have vision and innovation in marketing and advertising. Often times I hear the oh so typical excuses...we're not that big...we don't have a big budget...we're not a consumer product...yada yada yada. If nothing else, because of those very reasons, you should challenge yourself to be even more innovative. Don't have a large budget? Be smarter and faster than your competion and think of different, creative ways to leverage technology while supporting your overall brand positioning.

Cindy Alston, CMO from Gatorade was recently named one of the 10 best marketers in the business by Advertising Age. In the article touting her successes as a marketer for both Gatorade and one of their products Propel, she talks about the need and desire to break out of one's compfort zone, to keep in touch with her consumers and continually try new things. The Propel launch happened to be one of the most triumphant launches in the beverage industry in recent years.

My point is to learn from those, like these 10 individuals, who have the vision and courage to try something extraordinary. Allow yourself to try new strategies. Learn, adapt, grow, succeed.


Caught in a marketing undertow

: Sherrie Perkovich

We’ve all seen it. Hopefully haven’t done it. Reactive vs. Proactive. Oh how easy it is to get caught up and not even know it. Head barely bobbing above the surface. Just trying to “get things done.” Sales barking. CEO barking. Asking the ever present question…why didn’t it work? The marketing/advertising was supposed to get people knocking on the door. What went wrong? Start by assessing the following from your marketing plan…
- Were you trying to say too much? How many messages did you have crammed into the ads?
- Were you no saying anything at all? Where is the brand positioning, were you not giving people a reason to respond?
- No brand awareness. Were you trying to stretch your advertising dollars too far and didn’t have enough air cover for your initiatives. If you’re a total unknown, in this day and age, its harder to break through.
- No money. Did you scrape and fight to get the budget you had. Did you try to do too much with it? You need to work smarter, not harder.
- Was your media strategy off target? Maybe you had a single focused message, with a good brand positioning with good dollars behind it. Possible that your media strategy was off target. Not reaching the right people in a way in which they will engage with your brand.

These are just a few of the questions you can begin to ask yourself as you ramp up for 2007 planning. Often times we are flying at a million miles a minute and forget to take a step back, pull your face away from the computer and breathe. One of the harder things to do in marketing these days is keep your eye on the overall marketing strategy, goals and objectives. Yes there are tactics to get us there, but don’t lose sight of your vision. Everything you do should support that vision as a company. And continually ask yourself, does what I’m doing get us there, or does it detract.