Ad Age Small Agency Conference: Stating The Obvious… Way Too Often
Here are some smart, yet painful, takeaways from The Ad Age Small Agency Conference. I am not surprised at what the speakers say. But also a bit horrified. I mean, what you are about to hear are what I would consider no-brainers for how to run an advertising agency.
No Brainers… That is my What The Fuck. Am I being too dramatic? I don’t think so.
The issue is that these expert takeaways and advice should be ingrained in all advertising, digital design, and PR agencies. Clearly these takeaways are not. But, YMMV. I include some thoughts and links to “helpful’ thinking. Mine.
Not Speaking Client Language. From Mirren:
Brent Hodgin, Mirren’s Managing Director, is focused on language. As in client language.
“Clients are focused on growth and revenue and most agencies are focusing on brand reputation and positioning,” Hodgins said. “And that is a gap.” Awareness “in and of itself is not an end benefit,” he said, because you can grow awareness and still not move one product off the shelf.” He added: “When you don’t use the language of your client … it’s like you are an outsider trying to be an insider.”
The Levitan take. Hey, agencies are selling services to a prospective client that wants stuff. Figure out what stuff they want (gee like more sales and customers and the right analytics + KPIs) and talk their language. Do the upfront research.
Get past typical agency “branding” talk to talking about “sales”. Like ROI.
Some “CLIENT” language from my pitch book:
Here is a quote from an interview I did with Ian Beavis who has been EVP Automotive at Nielsen and ex auto CMO (Kia, Mitsubishi.) He has been pitched by dozens of agencies (and ran the Toyota account at Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, as well)
Levitan: A final question. Agencies have a hard time creating a competitive agency brand positioning. Any insights and advice you can give to the agency world on how to be distinctive in this highly competitive category?
Beavis: You rarely hear of an agency being a business solution provider, as it just doesn’t sound cool or creative. A good agency solves a client’s business issues and is a partner. Very few qualify and even fewer truly embrace this challenge.
Clients want agencies that understand business objectives and business results. They want to hear that you get it. That’s it, folks. This WTF is about not doing the research to learn what that prospective client wants.
Agencies Have a Serious Branding Problem. From The Martin Agency.
“The ad industry has a branding problem,” Cavallo said. She showed a slide revealing multiple agencies using generic and similar-sounding mission statements, all using the word “meaningful”—and contrasted that with precise, and highly differentiated mission statements of several brands, including Patagonia, Nike, Yeti and JetBlue.
The Levitan take. Undifferentiated agency branding! Insanity: Um, Advertising agencies that are in the business of branding cannot brand themselves? WTF? I have 840 blog posts. Many are about ignorable advertising agency branding / messaging. Here is one from way back in 2014. Is Your Advertising Agency Positioning “Normcore?”
Need a cartoon about this issue? From my pitch book, on sameness or as I say, advertising agencies that are not unignorable. As in, they are ignorable.
Advertising Agencies Do Not Sound Different: Deb Giampoli and Steve Boehler.
Steve Boehler, founder of Mercer Island Group, a management consultancy whose services include agency searches, advised shops to keep search consultants abreast of key developments. “Important news is what we want to hear about—so you’ve got a big hire, you’ve got a new capability, you’ve won a big new client—we want to know that kind of stuff. I don’t think it’s the frequency as much as the relevance of the information that you are sharing.”
The Levitan take: Again, WTF. Here is a link to how to win the attention of advertising agency search consultants. ++ Here is a quote on presentation mistakes from my pitch book from Mercer Island Group. Yes, they have opinions.
Robin Boehler: Partner, Mercer Island Group, Washington
The worst presentation mistake that agencies make is to focus on the wrong things. The “wrong things” are typically:
- Themselves: They focus on their agency and their capabilities
- Marketing tactics: They focus on the tactics they love
- Topics they find interesting: They focus on a topic that they personally find compelling
Poor Agency Websites: Melissa Lea
When it comes to agency websites, simple is better. “It’s great that your website is pretty and fancy … but it better have the facts,” said Melissa Lea, founder and director of Muster Consulting, during a panel discussion with agency search consultants. She advised shops to include the basics, such as the number of people employed and office locations. When listing key employees include serious bios, not just a picture of their dog or other frivolities.
The Levitan take: I am writing the definitive book on advertising agency management and how to win awards like – Ad Age Small Agency Of The Year. A key section will be on advertising agency websites – the good, bad, and very ugly. Stay tuned. Just for historical kicks, one of my companies built websites for Nabisco, Microsoft, and The Basketball Hall of Fame in the late 1990s. Since then dozens more including ones for my own agency and as CEO of two companies.
OK, enough about me. A key issue for agencies is that they, occasionally, forget that the key objective of the website is to drive high-quality leads. Yes, looking cool and very creative is a good thing. But, do not forget that you need to look and sound different from the zillion of other agencies. I call it being unignorable (yes, that again). Plus, please help the visitor to want to contact you.
Ad Age Small Agency Conference On A Pitch Warning Sign: Lindsey Slaby
The Levitan take on what it takes to be Ad Age Small Agency winner: I have advised ad, PR, digital, and you name it agencies to NOT pitch everything. Too costly and too hard on everyone in the agency. Much more on this in my pitch book (there is even a Go-No Go Pitch Quiz). Pitching everything (including going after all incoming RFIs and RFPs is insanity. And is a major cause of your people’s burnout).
That’s all folks. No more WTFs. Please.
Here is a link to the Ad Age Small Agency Conference.