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A change in perspective is just what your business needs.

A change in perspective is just what your business needs.

A few months ago I sent out an e-mail to promote my freelance advertising services. It was a quick way to reach out to business owners, so I cast my line literally hundreds of times and waited for bites. The law of averages paid off and I attracted six potential clients. The first company to respond was an adult entertainment club. I met Steve, the middle-aged strip club owner who had a very common problem with slow weeknights. He explained that he’d worked in hospitality for sixteen years and that it makes no difference whether you’re the local fish and chip store or the trendiest university bar in town, the weeknights are always quiet. Having lived in the heart of the Auckland CBD I knew what he meant. Even Auckland’s most prominent bars, restaurants and clubs rely on a good All Blacks game to stay afloat.

Speaking with Steve, I quickly learned that the common marketing solution to the Monday - Friday drought is to come up with a big weekend idea and a plan to suck every cent out of anyone looking for a good time. Hopefully by the end of the night you’ll be counting the cash and the low weeknight turnaround will be insignificant.

We explored a number of ideas that would make weekends more exciting and eventful but we arrived at one conclusion: consumers are tired of clichéd advertising lines that promises an unforgettable weekend experience. Besides, it’s always risky to give customers great expectations because if you can’t deliver, they might not come back.

After mulling over the brief for a few days, I realised that within Steve’s biggest challenge was one obvious solution: a quiet strip club has a higher ratio of dancers to customers, which of course means that one customer can enjoy the attention of more dancers. This would allow Steve to let in only a handful of customers at a time and thus make his club exclusive instead of quiet. Best of all, the idea wasn’t difficult or expensive to trial. We had simply turned a negative situation into a positive situation through a change in perspective.
Ogilvy Executive Creative Director Rory Sutherland suggests “advertising adds value to a product or service by changing our perception, rather than the product or service itself.”
In Steve’s case he had identified a problem, namely quiet weeknights, but he hadn’t asked why. As a strip club owner he initially struggled to come to terms with why a strip club would even need to advertise. Surely the lure of scantily clad women was enough? Tapping in to his customer’s mind-set, and changing his own perspective, proved to be the way Steve improved his business.
The next time you’re stumped for a good marketing solution, change the way you think about how your customers interact with your business. It worked for Steve, and more importantly, it worked for his customers.


Does advertising work?

Does advertising work?

One of my clients recently asked me, “Does advertising work?” I wasn’t sure why he asked me this. Our advertising had been extremely successful at raising his sales in recent months so I assumed he knew that it worked. So why the question? It turned out that he was wondering if there was a perfect way to measure the effectiveness of advertising. There’s no perfect way to measure anything but I thought I’d take a look at three key points that may help my client, and you, make more balanced decisions around your ad spend.

Does the size of your advertising budget contribute to your advertising’s success?

Does money influence brand value through advertising?

No. Money isn’t a guarantee of success in any industry. In 2013, Microsoft spent $2.6 billion on advertising, while Apple spent $1.1 billion. Did Microsoft’s bigger budget make them a bigger brand?

The answer is no. According to a 2013 report in Forbes, Apple is the world’s most valuable brand, worth a staggering $105 billion, while the Microsoft brand is only valued at $57 billion. Proof then that having deeper pockets doesn’t make you more successful. Perhaps it’s far easier to advertise, and in turn sell, better brands that are worth more than the sum of their parts? Everyone knows Apple is an awesome brand that makes amazing products, while Microsoft is a lot less remarkable.

But what would happen if you had to advertise a more ordinary product, like cheese or cat food? Well there should be no difference as to how effective your budget is, regardless of whether you’re spending $150k a year or $2 billion a year. You have to ensure that the basics are done right, that your creative execution is smack bang on brief, and that your media buying is as effective as possible. While I’ve never worked for Apple, I’m sure their basic advertising processes are similar to Microsoft’s. The same can be said for Toyota and Ford.

Does the size of your advertising agency contribute to your success?

David Ogilvy wrote in his autobiography, “Confessions of an Advertising Man”, that size wasn’t necessarily relevant unless you wanted it to be. He wrote about the time the head of a mammoth advertising agency solicited the Camel Cigarette account and promised to assign 30 copywriters to it, but the head of R.J. Reynolds simply replied, “Why can’t you just give us one good one?” Makes sense to me.

However, if you’re the kind of person who needs to delegate everything, then 30 people working on your advertising is what you need. If you’d prefer to be more hands on and in touch, then perhaps you only need two people working on your advertising. In some cases the very business model that you’re trying to advertise might be so flawed that no amount of people can fix it. Take as an example the recent demise of The Good Guys. Could a huge number of advertising folk have saved them? No. The Good Guys were about being cheap and boring but in New Zealand, you don’t get anything cheaper or more boring than Harvey Norman. The boring slot was already taken and no amount of advertising or money could change that or save The Good Guys.

Caveat emptor - “Let the Buyer Beware”

What is the most important contributing factor to the success of your advertising? It’s you. Think of your advertising in the same way as if you were buying a new car. You can try out as many different brands and variations as you’d like until you’re happy, but how much you pay for it, what marque you buy, what colour it is, how many extras you get – these are all decisions that you make. Sure the salesman and the brochure may sway your thinking, but you, and only you, get to say yes or no to the final purchasing decision. This responsibility carries on throughout your ownership, as all the decisions you make as the owner are yours and yours alone.

Let’s face it – you’re the one making the decisions when it comes to your advertising. Whether you choose a campaign that’s going to challenge the status quo or whether you wimp out and go for something mundane that pleases the board of directors, you made those decisions, you gave the instructions and approved whatever it was that lead to the end result that the advertising delivered. The success of any advertising will always rest with the person who signed for it.


How to get the perfect advertising agency for your business

How to get the perfect advertising agency for your business

Let’s face it, if you’re involved in the marketing of your business, it’s highly likely that you’ll have to deal with an advertising agency. There are hordes of advertising agencies out there, and the truth is they’re all pretty much the same: clones with only the slightest imperfections differentiating one from the other. They all have access to the same computers, the same software, the same media info. They even all have the same swanky offices and fast cars. What really differentiates an agency is its people. So how do you know you’re getting the right people? Here’s some valuable insight to help you make what can be a difficult decision.

Ditch the “pitch”

If you spend large sums of your money on advertising, and if your profits are dependent on its efficiency, it is your duty to take great pains to find the best possible advertising agency. Amateurs do it by cajoling a group of advertising agencies into submitting free campaigns on speculation. This is called a "pitch", and it’s a complete waste of time.

Let’s put the “pitch” into another real world example. You decide to go out for dinner. You head to the nearest mall and choose a restaurant at random. Once seated you tell the waiter you’d like a glass of water and some meat. The waiter is stunned and replies “what kind of meat, sir? We have a number of different dishes, all of them equally delicious.” To which you respond, “bring me something that I’ll like and if I don’t like it I’m leaving and I refuse to pay for it.” Now that’s guaranteed to get you thrown out (and hopefully beaten to a pulp) and that’s why no one orders a meal like that. It’s rude and just plain stupid – how can you possibly get what you want? And that’s really the advertising agency “pitch” summed up quite nicely: a pack of hyenas chasing a slab of rotting meat.

A Hyena shows a real world example of the advertising "pitch"

A Hyena shows a real world example of the advertising "pitch"

The “pitch” is perhaps the biggest misrepresentation of the capabilities of any advertising agency. The advertising agencies that win these “pitches” are the ones that use their best brains for soliciting new accounts, which means they relegate their existing clients to their second-best brains. This is because everyone (and I really do mean everyone) in advertising knows it’s way easier to keep a client than it is to get a new one. It’s a guarantee that the genius intellects you see at the pitch will rarely be seen once the agency gets your signature.

David Ogilvy was in complete agreement, and he said, “If I were a client, I would look for an agency which had no new business department. The best agencies don’t need them; they get all the business they can handle without preparing speculative campaigns.”

The sensible way to pick an agency is to employ a marketing manager who knows enough about what is going on in the advertising world to make an informed decision. Ask him to show you the work from the three or four agencies he believes to be best qualified for your account. Once you have your shortlist it’s time to call some of their clients. This can be particularly revealing. Be completely honest when you call and see how these clients respond to your probing. Do they feel threatened that another (perhaps bigger) company might be coming onto the client roster? Ask them who they deal with on a daily basis, and what they’d change in the relationship if they could.

Go back to school.

Once you’ve done this, it’s time to break out some old school thinking. Invite the head honchos from each of the leading contenders to bring two of their key people to dinner at your house. Loosen their tongues. Find out if they’re discreet about the secrets of their present clients. Find out if they have the spine to disagree when you say something ridiculous. Observe their relationship with each other; are they professional colleagues or quarrelsome politicians? Do they promise you results that are obviously exaggerated? Do they sound like extinct volcanoes always harking back to their glory days, or are they alive with possibility and endeavor? Most importantly, are they good listeners and are they honest? The purpose of this exercise is to find out if you like them enough to give them your money to spend. The relationship between client and agency has to be an intimate one, and it can be hell if the personal chemistry is sour. So before you commit, ask any agencies that want your business to show you the five most surprising, challenging and innovative things they took to their existing clients over the past year. A blank look at this point is sufficient reason to usher them out of your home, but a fired up and enthusiastic response showing some really clever thinking – well, that’s a very strong reason to keep chatting.

Once you’re committed to an agency, and your expectations are clear to them, then they need to be delivering everything they promised right from the start. More importantly, they should be exceeding your expectations on a regular basis and they should be surprising you by pushing the boundaries and bringing you ideas that make you a little nervous, that break new ground, that you haven’t seen before. If you only ever see executions and campaigns that you expect, then the agency isn’t really looking to grow your business as much as they should be.