How Shortsightedness Helped Me Sell My Nike Advertising Agency.
I talk to agency owners a couple of times a month about their plans (hopes, that is) for selling their advertising agency sooner or later. Some are young and are being smart about how to begin to create value for a future sale and some are simply ready to move on – ASAP. All ask me why and how I sold my Portland agency in 2011.
There were many reasons for my heading to the exit. I wanted to move on from running an agency (I had been in advertising and marketing since the 1980’s); I was burnt out by the effects of the recession on our profit margin; I didn’t want to hear about the next increase in my employee health plan; I did not like watching advertising becoming viewed as a ‘commodity’; there were simply too many agencies chasing too few clients; I had some pretty good ideas for creating the “agency of the future” but didn’t have the energy to make that happen and, finally, I got way tired of poor client decision-making.
How Nike Blew My Mind
One of my agency’s’ more intelligent clients was Digimarc, the technology firm that essentially owned the QR code market (even the technology behind SoundHound) and, more importantly, a technology that could turn a graphic or logo into an active QR code. Aim your phone at a ‘QR’d’ logo (a logo, not a bar code) and it could launch a mobile marketing event. They called it “The barcode of everything.”
Nike was another agency client. We handled their Major League Baseball and college sports programs. As you might suspect, it was very cool to be a Nike advertising agency – especially an AOR agency.
One day I brought home a Nike running shoe box and thought that Nike should use the Digimarc technology to activate the Swoosh from being a static graphic to being a very active mobile event launcher. The program was simple and global. Over time, Nike would alert its buyers that there was information and promotional value in aiming their phone at the Swoosh logo. I’m talking millions of boxes that could be brought to life, to tell stories, to sell more stuff.
Just think what Nike could do with the box and related videos – a video message from LeBron, new product intros, and on and on. I’m like thinking that every one of the millions of currently “DUMB” Nike boxes would all of a sudden become a “SMART” marketing tool.
I asked our direct Nike clients if they’d make an introduction to some senior marketers to show them how easily and inexpensively (I stress easy and low cost) they could kinda invent a whole new way to add significant value to their packaging. Note, Nike sells… 120,000,000 pairs of shoes a year.
I’m thinking… No-Brainer
We had the meeting, showed the presentation (see below) and instead of pats on our agency backs… we got blank stares. Blank stares! I’m sitting there thinking that this is a major high-value / low-cost no-brainer and these guys didn’t get it. Did not get that for virtually no cost, they could turn their packaging into a significant brand-owned mobile media device. A media and marketing tool that was perfectly targeted to excite Nike’s core market which are, of course, major mobile users.
Frankly, this was close to my last agency-life straw.
I’ll try to be kind here. I guess the Nike marketers were busy. But, I did have a sense of pearls before swine. Am I being harsh? Maybe. That said, I couldn’t believe that one of the smartest marketing organizations in the world preferred to maintain sending DUMB vs. SMART packaging into millions of homes.
You tell me, is this idea hard to get?