Marketing veterans are familiar with the 4P’s of the Marketing. If the Product,Price, Place and Promotion are right, there is good chance that success will follow.
Like Marketing, Advertising has its own drivers of success. Agency Management would be well advised to monitor them carefully.
I call them the eight P’s of Advertising.
They are as follows-
Product–This is what the Agency actually offers to its Clients. It is the final product that consumers see, experience, engage with, and react to. If this product helps deliver the results the Client is looking for it will be deemed successful. The Client will believe the money he spends on the Agency is worth it, and he will stay with them. As he grows, he will give them new assignments because the Agency has a track record of helping him to be successful.
It is imperative that the Agency understands that Strategy, Planning and Research are inputs to the end product. The inputs may be strong but if they do not result in a strong end product then they count for very little. The only thing that matters is what consumers actually see.
It is also important to note that the final objective is for the end product to be both effective and creative. Very few Clients will retain an Agency that is judged “Creative” but does not produce the bottom line results that they require. And while Awards may stroke the Agency’s ego, no amount of them will ever help Agency Management meet the payroll. Only Clients can do this.
People– Leo Burnett used to say that the Agency’s assets go up and down the elevator every day. Indeed, pretty much every Agency Managing Director will agree with this. But talk is cheap. The reality is that few Managing Directors are in a position to consistently hire the best people and constantly invest in training them and making sure that they can deliver the Product that will deliver results for Clients. Instead, they hire what’s available in the market, skimp on training, and hope for the best. This is the equivalent of buying a Corolla, running it into the ground, and pretending that it is a Porsche. No one will believe you and you will look foolish in the process. And you will not be winning many races.
The better approach is to make do with fewer, more senior people who have a stake in making the Agency grow. Stay understaffed and make use of the savings to make sure that the Team is finely trained and performs at peak efficiency. Make sure that they benefit financially, both from keeping the operation lean and from bringing in New Business.
Process– The key process is an Agency is the one that takes a Client problem or brief converts it into a communications challenge and develops an insightful brief. From this, the Agency will come up with an unexpected and effective creative solution and make sure it is produced and executed to the highest levels of quality. Many Agencies turn this into a “production line” where the project, in the form of a document, goes from department to department and up and down the silo-ed hierarchy. This is a recipe for re-work. The re-work will bleed the bottom line, waste time, affect morale, and most importantly, weaken the quality of the end product.
A more efficient process is one that has senior people from all disciplines working together to come to agreements at key milestones of the project. The strategic approach, the brief and the Creative Idea should be the shared responsibility of the Account Management, Planning, and Creative Department. Then the Creatives need to go off and execute against the agreed direction. The next meeting of all the disciplines should be to review the executions against the agreed to Ideas. If the executions are up to par, then the Agency is ready to present to the Client.
This is very similar to the approach taken when the Agency works on New Business. However, it is seldom used on existing accounts because the Agency is organized by department and not by Brand Teams. The Brand Team structure is better because it is Client focused, and because it allows senior people in all disciplines to be involved in the work. This is where they can add huge value by helping come quickly and efficiently to the best creative solution.
Presentations–The first question that is always asked by the Managing Director after a presentation is, “Did they buy the work”? This is the bottom line. A world-class Idea that is not approved is worth nothing. The Agency is back to square one and now has less time and more pressure to deliver. And it has also spent time and money that will go directly against the bottom line.
It is for this reason that Presentations is one of the P’s of Advertising. It does not matter if the Agency is selling a strategic proposal or a creative Idea. It may even be selling itself in New Business. If it makes a mess of the presentation bad things will follow. Conversely, if the Agency has the capacity to consistently deliver excellent presentations it has a significant advantage. It will sell its recommendations the first time around. It will build credibility with the Client. And it will separate itself from its competitors.
Agency Managing Directors must make sure that the presentation skills of Client facing personnel are top notch. Money spent in this area is truly an investment in building the business.
Positioning-The days of Agencies being all things to all people are gone, if they ever existed at all. It is wildly unreasonable to expect an Agency to be strategic, creative, fast, cheap, a global network, have deep local insights, do great TV while also being expert at social media. While Agencies may continue to claim that they can effectively do all these things, widespread Client dissatisfaction is telling a different story.
Agencies need to start practicing what they preach to Clients and define their differential benefit. What are they really good at? Where can they really add value?
Once this positioning is defined, it must drive how the Agency is organized and staffed. Where will they spend to acquire the best talent? What internal resources will they develop and which will they sacrifice? These decisions must be made if they Agency is to really deliver its positioning.
Agency Management must have a clear definition of what the Agency stands for. He must communicate it to the employees. He must spend his scarce resources behind this positioning. And most importantly, he must make sure that it is being delivered, in every project, to every Client.
Prime Prospects-Once the Agency has defined its positioning it needs to define its list of Prime Prospects. The Prime Prospects will be those potential Clients that are attracted by the differential benefit of the Agency. If the Agency were positioned as “fast and cheap”, what Advertisers out there would need this from an Agency? If the Agency is highly creative, which potential Clients are looking for that? The Agency needs to make a list of its potential Clients and then apply a series of filters to ascertain which is the most attractive prospect. The filters can be anything that the Agency considers important, from billings, to creative opportunities, to opportunities for growth. Once the filters are defined and applied, the Agency needs to sort the list. The number one on the list will be the highest rated prospect.
Defining the list of prime prospects will ensure that the Agency is focusing on Clients that are actually looking for what the Agency offers. It will help the Agency to focus its scarce new business resources on the most attractive prospects. And it will improve the chances that an eventual marriage will be a happy and productive one.
Promotion- All Agencies try to get their name out in the news, whether it is through Award shows, Effie’s, or pronouncements regarding proprietary processes and tools. They also pontificate about the future of advertising and how they are uniquely positioned to help Clients take advantage of change. But unless all of these promises are brought to life on a day-to-day basis with real Clients, they can and do elicit a huge eye roll from most Clients.
The real opportunity exists on a more micro level. Agencies need to convince each Client, on a day-to-day basis, that they are indeed delivering the Agency positioning and helping build business. If they do this, they are effectively promoting the Agency as satisfied Clients will reward the Agency with more business. These Clients will also become ambassadors for the Agency and they will promote it among their industry colleagues. Finally, they will remember the Agency as they move to more senior positions in other companies.
Agencies need to accept what is evident and use it to promote themselves. The best new business leads come from people that you work with every day and the most powerful promotion comes from happy users of your service.
Plans- Most Clients have Marketing Plans. In those plans, they define business objectives, strategies and plans. These plans also include the metrics that are used to measure performance. In this manner they align the organization and are also used as a management tool. Agencies need to emulate their Clients and create Account Plans that go beyond being just estimates of billings. These plans should be developed by the Account Director based on an analysis of the Client’s business, the state of the relationship and the Agency’s own objectives. They should be presented to and approved by the Managing Director as well as the department heads.
The Plans need to lay out the key objectives for the account in the next 12 months. These objectives are always tailor made for each account and can include things like client business and agency billings objectives, new business targets, awards, or relationship objectives. It is important that they be expressed in measurable terms so that they can be used as a management tool. Finally, it is important to make sure that the plan reinforces the Agency’s differential positioning.
Each objective should have a strategy or a key action associated with it and someone needs to be made responsible. Finally, the Agency should lay out an Initiative plan that details what added value the Agency will provide for the Client in the calendar year. The principle behind this is to elicit the following response from the Client- “I did not ask for this but it is exactly what I need. Where do I sign?”. Handled correctly, the Initiative plan will both strengthen the relationship and also provide incremental revenue for the Agency.
This Account Plan needs to be reviewed with Agency Management every three months to measure performance, and to make adjustments as required. This allows proactive management of the Account and, importantly, minimizes the chances of a nasty surprise.
So here are the eight P’s of Advertising- Product, People, Process, Presentations,Positioning, Prime Prospects, Promotion, and Plans. Monitoring them constantly and making sure that they are right is the Managing Director’s most important job.