Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bring Back Those Big Ideas

The following is a blog post from Jon Steel, author of Perfect Pitch and head of planning at WPP.  While the article is a few years old, it is as accurate today as the day it was written.

 Here is Jon's post.......


As recession looms, the pressure for marketers and their agencies to pursue short-term targets becomes all the more intense. Jon Steel argues that it's time to set more ambitious objectives

In 1963, J. Walter Thompson advertising veteran James Webb Young wrote, in How to Become an Advertising Man: "The true Advertising Man... is he who has the knowledge, skills, experience and insights to advise advertisers how best to use advertising to accomplish their objectives."
The prototypical agency executive that he described was still around when I joined the business some 20 years later. He (or she, with the dawn of equality and political correctness) was an extension of the client's marketing department, a consiglieri, whose focus was on setting the right objectives, and achieving them.
"In focusing on soft measures like 'visits' and 'hits,' these clients and their agencies are really missing the point"

By the 1980s, the martinis might have disappeared from the lunch table, but effectiveness was still the order of the day. Over the past twenty years, Stephen King and Stanley Pollitt had established what the Account Planning Group later described as "disciplined systems for devising advertising strategy and producing work that will be effective in the marketplace." Agencies and clients alike believed in advertising's ability to shape and modify attitudes and behaviour. Advertising was seen as an opportunity, and the prevailing mood of the industry was one of optimism; with each new brief came a palpable sense of possibility.
But today we live in different times. With increased competition and the spectre of recession looming, we find ourselves in an era of accountability. The days of the agency consiglieri are over, replaced by an uneasy and increasingly one-sided client/supplier relationship. Pitches are decided not by client leaders, but by procurement departments. And the big, brandbuilding idea seems increasingly (and depressingly) secondary to efficiency. "Is it better to get the campaign right?" I was asked at a recent industry conference, "Or to be able to prove it?"
God, I need a martini.
Writing at the end of 2007 on the subject of what keeps American CMOs awake at night, Advertising Age highlighted two key issues: "tenure" and "ROI." It's hardly surprising that a CMO would toss and turn over these; the average tenure in that position in the USA is now less than two years, which is rather like being the manager of Newcastle United Football Club. It's a rare company that puts the faith in a CMO that Manchester United has put in Sir Alex Ferguson, or Arsenal in Arsene Wenger; newly-appointed CMOs thus tend to focus less on what they need to affect for the long-term benefit of their brands, but rather on what they can be seen to be affecting in the here and now. Their driving force is not achieving long-term success because for most the long term does not exist; instead their Holy Grail is not getting fired, or at least delaying the inevitable.
This mood, this defensive posture, is passed on directly to agencies, and thereby to the work. A study of US-based CMOs, commissioned by Adweek early in 2008, asked how many of them planned to change one or more of their agencies in the coming year. Forty-five per cent of those surveyed said they intended to fire at least one of their agencies. At the same time, the majority of CMOs said they planned to plough more resources into e-mail programs, CRM, marketing performance measuring 'dashboards' and search engine marketing.
Such redirection of resources is readily justified on the grounds of the potential of these new media for developing more personal, truly interactive relationships with a brand's target customers. But I fear that an equally powerful reason is that they also represent an opportunity for easy measurement, and easy results. And that in focusing on soft measures like 'visits' and 'hits,' these clients and their agencies are really missing the point.
I once heard a senior British police officer attempting to justify the reduction in numbers of officers on the streets. "Statistically," he said, "it's clear that since police officers have been taken away from the traditional beat, there have been more arrests."
I don't question his numbers, and what he described might well have represented success against a government promise to increase the number of arrests. But did it represent increased effectiveness in his force's activities? My personal view is that when there were more police on the streets they acted as a deterrent to crime.
The reason officers made fewer arrests is that their simple presence prevented many crimes from happening in the first place. But maybe it's harder to reliably measure crimes that might have happened but didn't.
So now the arrest figures are up and the government basks in its statistical toughness, while all around the UK many people are afraid to walk the streets of even the smallest towns at night. We are sacrificing the true objective of a safer society, in the name of accountability.
 And this is where a lot of the problems start in our industry. We are simply setting the wrong objectives. As Stephen King and Stanley Pollitt once stood up to stupid, unhelpful research, so too should we stand up to the current marketing obsession with the short term.
We should be angered by the accountability mindset that means we're making more and more decisions based on what can be measured, rather than what's really important. How many companies today are setting "Big, Hairy Audacious Goals?" Certainly not many, and we are also culpable in their failure. We need to inject more ambition into our objectives.
We should fight once more for access to the data, and the place at the boardroom table that allows us to once again be true partners. Which means that clients have to learn to trust us enough to invite us in and share their secrets, and we have to work hard to develop the "knowledge, skills, experience and insights" that James Webb Young rightly asked us to employ on their behalf.
It makes me angry that we have lost that trusted position, and the rigour that once provided its foundation. I ask you to be angry too. And to do something about it.
Source: The Wire - Issue 30 - Page 11, published in October 2008

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Delete these 4 things from your routine to be more productive #blindpost

The following is a blog post from www.jeffhilimire.com Jeff is CEO of DragonArmy, the ultimate entrepreneur and one of the most genuine and compelling leaders and presenters I have worked with.  I thought his post on productivity was interesting and wanted to share it with everyone.

 Here is Jeff's post...

This is a blindpost from another article but for some reason I can’t remember where the article came from…

Delete these 4 things from your routine to be more productive

#1 – Stop checking email all the time. Email is the silent productivity killer. You can spend hours inside of email and even come out of it thinking you got a lot done, but that’s usually not the case. Email is like this ever-flowing distraction faucet that never seems to stop. What I’ve started doing is blocking out time on my calendar for checking and responding to email. I try hard not to check email other than those pre-selected times.

#2 – Observe the 80/20 rule. Most likely, 20% of your effort will get 80% of the results. Look at your calendar and think about the things that you’re doing that are moving the needle the most. Try to do more of those things and less of the things that are not driving much value. I’ve started color coding my calendar based on the different activities I do during the week. That’s helped me see where my time is being spent and how I can be more productive.

#3 – Don’t keep a to-do list. This probably sounds counter-intuitive. However, I have become a believer that a to-do list is like that closet in your house where you keep sticking junk that you want to use later, but never do. Most people I know have a hard time really knocking their to-do list down effectively and instead it just continues to grow and adds stress as it does.
Here is my new to-do system that so far has made me much more productive.

#4 – Stop trying to multitask. There’s really no such thing as multitasking. If you’re watching a show AND working on a presentation, your mind can’t effectively be doing a good job with either. Or if you’re someone that checks their phone a lot while talking to someone in person – please tell me that you’re not one of those people – then how can you really be focusing on the person you’re talking to? You can’t. Focus on what you’re doing and compartmentalize your activities more. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can juggle multiple things at once and still be productive.

What did I miss? Are there things you do that help you be more productive?
~ if you liked this blindpost, here are more you can check out. And a handful of my friends will suggest blindposts for me to write from time to time, please feel free to do that too!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Wonderful Pistachios Super Bowl spot

Pistachios, pistachios, pistachios…the Wonderful Pisatachios Super Bowl spot won the night.  If you haven't seen it... click here

For a while now, I have been working with agencies and watching TV wondering if our industry is truly creative or is it simply following a set of rules laid down by our advertising forefathers.  There is plenty of work that is incredibly creative but sometimes I feel like the work is being bogged down with outdated rules.  The two rules that I question the most are branding colors and calls to action.  The pistachio ad brilliantly lampooned both creative laws in two, perfect 15 second spots.

Regarding branding colors, I get that you can own a color by constantly reinforcing it.  Coke owns red, T-mobile probably owns pink.  But if you are not spending buckets full of money, it can look ridiculous.  The first Redds Apple Ale spot that I saw featured a guy in a red (really more like watermelon) colored hoodie.  I am guessing that they had to custom make that hoodie because no one where a watermelon colored hoodie.  I watched the spot and immediately thought that the agency was selling the client on the fact that the watermelon colored hoodie was what branded the spot.

Perhaps if they spend another four-hundred or five-hundred million dollars per year, for the next ten years, they will be the second most popular drink trying to own red.  It is as if the client and agency somehow felt that plastering a spot with red and spending a few million dollars was going to get it done.  I understand that they had to make the hoodie some color, so why not make it red.  But all I was left with was the thought “what kind of tool wears a watermelon colored hoodie.  I wouldn't want to drink the beer he drinks.”

The next rule of creative that I am not sure applies anymore is the call to action.  I imagine for direct response work it is a good idea.  But saying talk to your doctor about Crestor doesn’t make much sense to me.  A call to action implies taking action now.  Unless I am seeing this spot in a doctor’s office, I am not going to speak to him now about Crestor, so what is the point of the call to action.  Calling GEICO now, makes sense.  Telling me to pick up a box of Monkey-Chow next time I am at the grocery store, doesn’t make sense.  There is too much time between the call and the action.

I understand that there are tons of people and issues influencing the creative work.  Let’s just consider which rules we want to keep and which we want to eliminate.  Once we are no longer bound by so many creative shackles, perhaps we can create new best practices that new generations of ad folks  will have to follow.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Dangers of Technology -- Illustrated Ironically Enough at CES

By now, most of us have heard about or watched Michael Bay's disastrous presentation at CES last month.  For those of you who haven't seen it yet, click here. It was so bad, I found the video googleing "CES 2013 presentation fail." I didn't even get the year right and google knew what I wanted.

While I have sympathy for Michael, he did remind us of an important lesson.  Regardless of how confident you are the technology, nothing takes the place of preparation.  How many of us could give a reasonably persuasive new business presentation if the equipment failed us?  No PowerPoint, no Keynote, just you and your thoughts.  Would you be able to hit the high points of the presentation or would simply mumble your way off-stage saying "Sorry, I can't do this."

Certainly, part of Mr. Bay's mistake was relying too much on technology.  But the reliance on the teleprompter could have just as easily been on note cards instead of the teleprompter.  The real issue is that he was not prepared.  He did could not recite the key points that he wanted to mention.  The teleprompter goes down, he is not prepared, now his nerves take over.  What started as a bump in the road has now quickly snowballed into an avalanche of nervous reactions forcing him to make his way off-stage in what was l likely one of his most awkward professional moments.

If you look at this through the lens of new business, make sure that you and everyone on your team knows the two or three most important parts of their part of the presentation as well as the two or three main points of the entire presentation.  This forces you to make sure that your prensentation has a small set of primary takeaways and insures that everyone is in agreement about what those takeways are.

While this may seem straightforward, I have an experiment for you.  A day or two before your next pitch, go around the room and ask each member of the pitch team (don't simply ask a question to the group) what they think are the three most important things in the presentation for the prospect to remember.  Resist the urge to engage people in conversation about those points.  Simply go around the room and ask everyone.  If everyone on the pitch team gives the same answer, you are in good shape.  If you get a collection of different answers from different people, send me an email because you have a problem.  If the pitch team cannot articulate the three or four things the prospect should remember about your pitch, there is no way that the prospect will be able to recite your primary takeaways.  If the prospect misses your primary takeaways, you will almost certainly lose.

Mark Schnurman
President and primary pitch consultant at
631.385.1716 x201

Monday, June 25, 2012

Why Agencies Win

   Frequently, the difference between winning and losing a pitch is very small. The second place team may not have done a bad job; it may just be that the first place team was a little bit better. Two aspects of a pitch that can help to give winning agencies the edge are clarity and discipline.

    Clarity in a pitch setting means that the client understands exactly what your agency stands for and what your agency is recommending for the brand. If you are expecting a company to select your agency based on the new business equivalent of speed-dating, you’d better have something provocative to say. Simply explaining how well you understand the market along with a few bland strategic ideas is not going to get it done. Clients are looking for something to remember you by, and it often takes something thought provoking to stick in their heads.
    Think about your strategic recommendations at your last pitch. Were those recommendations something that any agency could have developed? While believing that your staff are the best and the brightest is nice, smart people are working at every agency, and they just may have come up with the same strategic ideas as you did. For example, recommending that a biotech firm focus on the science for the launch of its new monoclonal antibody may well be the right strategy, but it is hard to believe that five other agencies would not land in the same place. This does not mean that the ideas are wrong; the ideas are just not helping you become memorable to the client or differentiate yourself from the other agencies.

    Remember that you are trying to win the pitch, and providing clear strategic and creative recommendations may not be enough to do the job; those recommendations need to put distance between you and the competition. Me-too or unclear messages will not provide you with that distance.

    Another characteristic of winning agencies is discipline. Your agency can call upon many resources during a pitch, but the most important and finite resource that you are working with is time. Every agency is working on virtually an identical schedule. The winning agency cannot use a worm hole to manufacture more time than the competition; that agency simply makes better use of its most valuable resource.

    Discipline refers to the amount of time it takes to get to a strategy, creative brief, creative review, refining the deck, rehearsing, etc. I understand that a better brief will lead to better creative and so on. I also understand that the clock is ticking and sometimes, most times, you will need to work off a creative (or strategic) calendar that is not ideal. Winning agencies always seem to find the proper balance of time spent researching, thinking, creating, decking, and rehearsing.

    Another aspect of discipline is the discipline around deadlines. During the compact schedule of a pitch, even missing a deadline by just one day or even half a day can sometimes be beyond recovery. This is one of the reasons that a pitch leader is so important.  A pitch leader needs to drive the process forward and make sure that everyone adheres to deadlines.

    Discipline also applies to your messages and creative. Are you mixing strategic messages just to appease two members of the pitch team? If so, the client is left with a muddled message, creating a clarity issue. Poor discipline from a creative standpoint typically leads to work that is being shown for any number of reasons (it is beautiful, someone worked really hard on the concept, etc) but is not on strategy. We can argue whether clients can measure the subtle artistry of a concept, but most of us would agree that all clients can tell whether work is on strategy or not.

    While clarity and discipline are not a guarantee of success, a lack of clarity and discipline is almost certainly a guarantee of failure. The difference between the winning pitch and the second place pitch is often very small, so attention to detail can make the difference.

Mark Schnurman
President -- Filament Inc.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Don't pitch like Madonna's halftime show

Maybe I need a break from new business pitches because I am starting to see parallels in the most peculiar places. The most recent parallel was in last night's Super Bowl Halftime show.

It seemed as if Madonna, in an effort to be FCC-friendly and inclusive, strayed from her irreverent style and settled smack dab in the middle of mediocrity. In an effort to make the show less lame, she added Trojan warriors, a high-tech stage, LMFAO, Cee Lo Green and M.I.A. All of which made the show busier but no less interesting. How often are the advertising equivalent of Trojan warriors added to your pitch? The result is the same... a busier, but no more compelling pitch.

Just like bells and whistles don't make a boring halftime show any less boring, those same bells and whistles also don't help to make a new business presentation any more compelling.

It is easy to get caught up in the fun of finding new and interesting tricks to make new business pitches cool, but it is not always time well spent. Clients are smart enough to see really smart thinking and creative. Over time, clients have also become adept at recognizing pitch bells and whistles.

Ask yourself and your team "what do we want the client to remember about our agency?" Odds are, the answer is not that you had really cool Trojan warriors.

Mark Schnurman
Pitch Consultant -- Filament Inc.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Every Presenters Nightmare

The following post is from Jim Joseph's blog, Jim is President of Lippe Taylor Brand Communications and author of the book The Experience Effect. I thought his post was a wonderful reminder about both preparation and connecting with the audience.

Every Presenter's Nightmare
I guess I should consider myself lucky that I lasted all these years without it ever happening to me. But yesterday it did. The moment I have dreaded for years ... the moment that all public speakers dread.

I was speaking at the MDPA marketing conference just outside Washington, DC ... talking about the evolution of social media especially as it relates to wellness. The MC of the conference makes a very articulate introduction for me and I confidently walk up onto stage. I say "Good Morning" with all the gusto I've got and hit the button to advance the next slide ...

Nothing happens.

I click again, I point it at the screen, I click again ... Nothing happens. Thinking that maybe something will save me I click again ... Nothing happens.

I decide to give an intro to the slides while the IT folks figure out what's going on -- to buy myself some time ... Nothing happens.

By the look on the IT guy's face, I quickly realize that I am hanging out there on my own. Forty-five minutes of content and I've got no slides. So I just start talking ... and something really cool happens.

I connect with the audience!

I pretty succinctly convey the message I want to make without a single slide. I proceed to tell a story of what I want people to hear from me. I put all my attention into the audience, rather than on the slides. And although I may not have hit every bullet point from every slide, I certainly did deliver the message. And because everyone felt so bad for me (and afraid for when it's their turn), they actually paid attention. Nothing like sympathy to draw in a crowd!!

What a concept. A story that people paid attention to ... at a marketing conference! I got pushed out of "slide land" and was forced just to talk and to tell a story. And by the sound of all the Q&A that happened afterwards, I'd say it went really well. Without a single slide.

Five lessons learned from this "experience":
- Be prepared for the worst case scenario ... always
- Tell a story ... in the moment
- Pay attention to your audience ... and they will pay attention to you
- Give 'em just enough content to spark engagement ... and they will ask questions
- Smile the whole time :) ... and they will smile back!!

Now that was an experience!! Ever happen to you? Jim.
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