Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Are You Three Feet From Gold?

Saturday, March 6th, 2010

I read an article this week about advertising agency and client relationships.  It was not very encouraging.  The average partnership between the agency and its account lasts only two years.  And you thought divorce rates between married couples were high!  Should we really be surprised?  I mean divorce rates are at an all time high and a Super Bowl Champion coach like  Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jon Gruden, is fired five years after winning it all.   The average college graduate will work for more than ten different companies in his/her life time.  The rules have changed.  It’s no longer about loyalty for either party.  Both sides want results.  Period.    An employee wants to be compensated at the highest level and will transition accordingly.  The Buccaneers don’t want to wait for more Super Bowl Championships.  Clients don’t want to wait on results.  So; if those are the rules, stop complaining and prepare accordingly.

Most “breakups” arise when expectations are not met.  That’s why setting expectations on the front end is so critical to establishing long-term relationships in any partnership.  In the advertising business, we are good at painting a very rosy picture and promising the moon on the front end.  In my experience, that’s a recipe for disaster that appears to be the norm (hence the average two year relationship between agencies and their accounts).

Establishing a time line for specific results is a salient aspect of setting expectations.  Ever notice the weight loss commercials?  They inform you of how many pounds Suzie Smith lost, and…. how long it took her to lose the weight.  We need to do the same thing when we discuss advertising results with our accounts.  It’s unrealistic to expect to lose 25 pounds and get ripped the first week of working out after a six month layoff.  You may even gain weight the first couple of weeks because you’re expending more energy and feel hungrier.  Imagine if no one set your expectations and after three weeks of working out, changing your diet and making difficult sacrifices you actually gained weight?  This happened to me a few years ago, but my spouse had set my expectations on the front end.  I was still discouraged but not surprised.  In week three, things kicked in and I lost 4 pounds.  In week four I lost 3 pounds and then a pound a week there after.  I’m telling you that I would have quit after two weeks had my expectations not been set.  The same holds true in advertising.  Before you can build a brand, we need to pour the foundation.  Unfortunately, all of the progress in building the foundation takes place below the ground.  It’s not visible.  It feels like nothing is happening.  Your customer says, “You’ve been working on this house for a month and I don’t even see the first wall?”  That’s right.   In order for the walls to withstand the test of time, we must pour a solid foundation.  This is not what anyone wants to hear.  We live in a quick fix society.  I want to get well fast.  I want to lose weight fast.  I want immediate sales increases.  But, fast increases are historically followed by rapid decreases (ie: Our current housing crisis).   We should strive for modest, sustainable growth that lasts.

It takes so much more time, energy and money to start over.  Invest in a strategic evaluation on the front end.  Be clear about the exact outcome you desire and how long you are willing to ride the storm to lay a foundation that you won’t have to tear down and rebuild two years later.  There is a story about a San Francisco gold digger who moved to the west coast in search of his fortune.  He dug for weeks with no luck.  Finally, he laid down his pick and called it quits.  The next day a young lad  grabbed the pick and began digging three feet from where he found the instrument… and struck gold.  This should be a lesson to us all.  If your plan is well thought out, stick with it (even if you gain weight the first two weeks).  You never know when you might be three feet from gold.

Taking our “performance-based” culture to the living room

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

We run a business that is performance-based.  When we don’t perform for our customers, we get replaced.  As ubiquitous as this law of the farm is today, twenty years ago companies placed a higher value on loyalty than performance.  Think about how unconventional that sounds; like saying it’s more important to be liked than respected.  None the less, it’s true.  I know because I watched my grandpa & father live through the “Reward Loyalty” era.   My professional career began that way but quickly transitioned in the early ’90s into the “sink or swim” culture we have since euphemised as “performance-based”.  I’m good with it.  I better be good with it because I don’t really have a choice.   Unfortunately, there are a number of my contemporaries who have found more solace in reminiscing about how things used to be than moving forward and reinventing themselves and their craft.  I hope to God that I never become one of them.  But, like an alcoholic, I must be aware that I am susceptible to falling off the wagon every day.  I experienced how easy things used to be.  I have friends who talk about how things used to be.  It’s a path that leads to unemployment and self pity, but it’s always a possibility that ultimately is my choice.

My two young sons love to watch TV (surprise).  Fortunately the programs are Disney Channel and PBS, so we justify their obsession as “educational”.  That was yesterday (literally).  Today we are taking our performance-based culture to the living room.  In order for our boys to engage in another 30-minute TV program they must pass a 6 question test and get at least 4 out of 6 answers correct in order to watch another TV program.   Now that is performance-based!  The early results are good.  Both seem engaged and motivated to perform.  The sense of entitlement that came with sitting on the leather couch watching a 56-inch color TV has somewhat diminished, at least for me.    It’s early, but I like where this is going, and believe it or not, so do the kids.  If the only memories they have growing up are performance-based, perhaps they will enjoy an advantage in the ultra-competitive world they will reside in.  Check back with me in twenty five years.

A new type of commercial A.D.D.

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

It’s no secret.  Most Americans have Attention Deficit Disorder (A.D.D.).  We live in a multi-task society where status and respect are measured by how many emails one can reply to while walking to the printer.

All that said, why are advertisers still trying to communicate with customers using :60-second or even :30-second commercials?  If you can hold your spouses attention for :30-seconds, you’re a better man than me.  Seriously; do you really think people want to hear or see anything more than the name of the business, the offer and a web address (in case they are genuinely interested in learning more)?  Wouldn’t we be better off  with short, relevant commercials? Am I crazy here?  What are your thoughts?