Most marketing teams organize their advertising campaigns in the following order.
1. They start internally with market research to find their targeted audience.
2. Then they spend months choosing a creative agency, then working on the message and creative ideas for their advertising. This process includes story boards, renderings, color revisions and final drafts, staging, shooting, editing, etc.
3. After the creative path is determined, they turn to an agency for media, quite often their creative one, because “they buy media too.”
4. For experienced clients that understand a “one size fits all” agency isn’t the most beneficial to their company, they will look for a seasoned media agency, who are experts at campaign strategies, placements and negotiations.
Since I own a media company, one might think that this is where I would jump in and say that they made their first mistake, by placing the media last or with a creative agency. But you would be mistaken. Their first mistake already occurred, and they had no idea it even took place.
Their first mistake wasn’t vetting media strategists and placement agencies that could help them with their research and structure their message based on its findings of fact and logic. Then align their audiences with the media outlets and correct creative formatting. Which in turn could have helped them find the best creative agency based not only on talent but also the one that best understands the client’s consumers and goals the best.
But most companies proceed in the wrong order and allow their creative agency to place their campaign and wait to see the branding effects, sales growth or decline, and then determine whether their goals have been met. Many marketing folks believe this is the correct order and due process and once again they would be wrong for the second time.
As an agency owner, I work with clients who believe creative comes first, when in fact, it should come third. Research and isolation of consumers always goes first, followed by hiring the most capable agency to digest the mountain of data and find the right needles in the haystack to truly raise the message above their competitors. Followed by a media strategy that will place the correct pegs into the proper holes and do it as cost effectively as possible.
That media agency should attend every creative cattle call for several reasons. First, they can help the client establish which agency understands the task at hand the best, and secondly because if done correctly the two firms are going to need to work together, in tandem, so being able to have a good relationship is imperative to the client’s overall success.
Time after time we are called upon too late, when their creative work is far along or already completed. Based on the creative they have developed they’ll dictate which outlets we should use. Often my first thought is, “why would you want to run your campaign there”? It’s the proverbial dog wagging the tail or putting the cart before the horse syndrome.
Unfortunately, many agencies are so happy to have the business that they will follow the client’s direction. But this is where an agency needs to make it politely known that they are the experts on this matter and the client should reconsider their direction and validate everyone’s direction before just carelessly moving forward. However, they just concede to the client’s wishes. This is the third mistake often made.
We all want as much business as possible but at what cost? While I want to earn as much income as possible the difference might be in the word, “earn”.
An honest, well informed agency knows its true value and won’t sell itself out for a single client and for good reason. In the end it’s almost guaranteed the plan will fail and you’ll lose the client. Because it’s a tough racquet we’re in. When something works well, the internal folks take the credit and when it fails, they blame the agency. It sounds harsh but ends up being the case the majority of the time.
Instead, a good agency needs to be humble and great listeners, after all, we’re really problem solvers, but they also have to be confident in their own talents and do what’s best for the client and for their own agency. And, sometimes, that means turning down a client.
In the end, an agency should be a true partner because both companies have much at risk. Just like a CEO won’t sit quietly in a board meeting if he /she strongly disagrees, neither should an agency. The reality is our client’s success is a direct reflection on our agency’s continued success.
Quite often I find myself wishing the client had started in the correct order, which is research, strategy, creative, media negotiation but rarely is that the case. However, when you finally are invited to the party, do right by the client, but just as importantly by your agency.
When businesses choose to make their first partner a media agency, it will save them time, money and avoid the pitfalls of advertising that are not thought about by the marketers during the creative process.
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