Thursday, November 3, 2011

The difference between lip service and leadership

As always, the Bedford Group Consulting has some interesting views on the Agency/Client relationship subject, in an article I've just read, called "What Clients are saying".

This article echoes what I've been banging on about in my Strategic Account Management and Strategic Creative Leadership workshops.

From the article, in the context of increasing pressure on top management, Jane Bedford writes:
A downsized corporate America is looking for agencies whose informed objectivity can provide support and directional input in making decisions which affect the corporation’s very survival. These clients want an agency whose principals genuinely know the difference between lip service and leadership in the communications business.
And this raises an interesting point. How many ad agency principals remain active in their Client's businesses? I know that I found it difficult - the challenges of running an ad agency suck you further away from the very rockface you need to be climbing.

Jane goes on to another of my favourite subjects: how often are agencies simply executing what they've been briefed rather than actively looking for ways to grow their Clients' business? Through clever product innovation, or through deep consumer insight work to uncover amazing new territories for the Client to play in, functionally or emotionally?

And she makes the point that should be nailed to the front door of all agencies busy pitching their socks off: it's so much easier to build your business through building your clients' businesses than jumping through the pitch hoop, depleting your resources and under-delivering to your existing clients.

Bottom line? It's all about delivering business building value, by being experts in communication. But being (and staying) an expert takes time. I'm always amazed at how few people in the ad industry have ever even read the ASA Advertising Code, the basic Rules of the Game.

So there are a couple of challenges, tweaks needed to the current agency working model. But the best thing about all of this, is this:

What clients are wanting from agencies is theoretically what agencies love doing and, given the chance, can be immensely good at. Agencies always bemoan the fact that they have been pushed so far down the totem pole, and are superficially invoved in the business compared to the golden days, when the CEO sat across the table.

According to this article, Clients seem to be asking Agencies for more involvement in their business challenges. It's a great invitation!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The curious case of 96% of women

I was blown away, off my couch, the other night, watching an ad for Dove Shampoo on TV. I didn’t know Dove had shampoo, so there you go; now I do. Advertising does work.
But what flabbergasted me was the end title: “96% of women prefer Dove Hair”. Really? Seriously? 96% of women?
I didn’t even know it existed, haven’t tried it, so I definitely wasn’t one of the 96%. I asked my Post-Grad class at UCT. Four girls out of about 60 were ahead of me in that they actually knew that Dove had a shampoo, but none of them had tried it.  

So who are these women? The ad doesn’t say “96% of women who tried the product”. It doesn’t say “South African women”. It doesn’t say “women who work in the Unilever building”. It just says “96% of WOMEN.”
Then, quietly steaming about this utterly fatuous and, in my opinion, obviously blatantly untrue fact, I was again assailed on my couch. Revlon ran an ad (like Dove, a rather bland and otherwise uninteresting ad), and there it was again. Like a wet fish in the face. Can you believe that “96% of women” also prefer Revlon’s product – I think it was the anti-ageing stuff.
The same 96%? Of women?
What I wondered is whether the women in Somalia had much time to ponder their preference of shampoo and anti-ageing face cream; same for the women in Afghanistan, rural China and even rural South Africa. Of course to make the statistic even more ridiculous, the size of markets for these types of products are limited by actually being physically suited to the product.

So if I do some basic calculations, on just South African women (remember the ad doesn’t even say that), I get that the total universe of vaguely suitable consumers for Dove Shampoo in South Africa (as a percentage of all women in South Africa) is 24% of South African women. So is it 96% of this 24% that prefer Dove Shampoo? I strongly doubt it. Walk into a room of ten White, coloured or Asian women in South Africa, and ask them if more than 9 of them prefer Dove Shampoo.

Aha! You might say. There’s an asterisk and a TINY qualifier at the bottom of the screen in the Dove ad. Visible only to the obsessive like me, who paused the ad on PVR and pressed my nose against the TV.  So that must qualify the 96% surely, because this is Unilever, and they know better, and also because Dove is about being real, about building a caring relationship with their consumers, so they would never lie…
But you would be wrong. The tiny print (visible only in a cinema, with binoculars) only says that they prefer this shampoo to one they are currently using. No news about the 96% then.

So I am left deeply curious about this statistic.
Is it a blatant misrepresentation of a small sample to which we are not privy?
Or am I just not getting it?
Revlon and Unilever: would you be so kind as to clarify this so I can sleep better?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Unintellectual damage to the ANC brand’s intellectual property.


First written: 8 December 2008

Updated 2nd August 2011

I wrote this article in December 2008. Current events make me think it's more relevant than ever. Nothing has been learned, nothing has been done to stop the sabotage of what was a respected brand, locally and internationally.

Charting the trials and tribulations of the ANC over the past few years will no doubt make for a very interesting case study. Not in politics, but in brand management and on the "un-intellectual" approach to their Intellectual Property.

The fundamental flaw in their approach appears to be that people (or in government parlance,“citizens”) will believe everything they are told about a brand. They will listen attentively to the messages emanating from official sources, and they will obey. They will then carry these beliefs to their dying day; beliefs that have been crafted by the “owners” of the brand and received loud and clear by the recipients.

Enter that wonderful old adage about “products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind”. The days of marketers, no matter of what, having a one sided conversation with the consumer, are, of course, long over.

People, especially as they are exposed to more freedom of opinions, simply don’t always believe and do what they are told about brands. They are free to craft their own perception of the brand in any which way they like, based on any and all of the input they receive. Jeremy Bullmore, former Chairman of JWT, says that consumers create brands as “birds build nests. From the scraps and straws they chance upon”.

The second major flaw in their brand management strategy appears to be the lack of understanding of the “Say – Do – Confirm” model of integrated brand messaging. Simply, what I Say, is planned and I, as brand owner, exert a large degree of control over this. What I Do should be planned and controlled, and should of course underscore the Say part of the brand so that the message, the perceptions, the feelings and overall, the level of trust, is Confirmed.

If what Brand X (or A, N and C), Says and Does are not aligned, the message is not Confirmed, and the brand is not trusted. And in the consumer’s mind, the brand moves away from what it says it is, to what the consumer believes it is. And no amount of saying is going to change that!

Douglas Smith, a renowned Management and Marketing author wrote this about the Republican party in the USA: “What happens to companies can also happen to political parties -- indeed, any organization in this new world of ours. At some point, if the brand delivery and brand experience radically contradict the brand promise, then the customers (in this case, voters), the investors (in this case, contributors) and even the employees (in this case those who work and volunteer for the Republican Party) will actually look at the delivery and the experience to define the brand of the Party and not to the promises themselves”.

So when Julius Malema says what he says, when Jacob Zuma (and other ANC heavyweights) doesn’t say what he/they should, and does what it likes, you have a massive disconnect between Brand Say and Brand Do.

Picture the ANC as a KFC franchise, and imagine the Colonel and his team allowing the KFC Youth MD to be at odds with the ethos, the image, and the values of the Motherbrand? Of course he would be fired, instantly. KFC Youth would go on a massive PR campaign to rebuild brand bridges, and the Motherbrand could just live to see another day, untarnished. Because of course, if the Youth League uses the ANC brand in its name, it is a brand extension of the ANC. If it sings a discordant song, or threatens a neighbouring head of state, or spews hatred at the head of the official opposition – it may be a political game, but truth is the real brand owners, the consumers, are readjusting their views of what the ANC stands for as a result. Not in a nice way either.

Of course, brands can evolve. The ANC brand probably has evolved. But its messaging hasn’t, just its behaviour has. Creating confusion. There is no room for confusion in the war-room of brand positioning.

So now, Malema has supposedly been reigned in (again) after years of unintellectual damage to the ANC’s intellectual property. And the media will probably still be seen as the bad guy. Flaw no. 3: you can’t control the “scraps and straws” from which consumers will build their brand. But you can control your brand behaviour, and thus their brand experience. And if you shout loud about Brand promises, and your Brand behaviour is at odds with those, it makes a great news story.

Too little, too late, from a brand health point of view. The ANC spends an inordinate amount of time in court: remember when they fought with COPE over Intellectual Property?  Protection of Intellectual Property is of course paramount: but in this instance they might be better served in managing the Intellectual Property they have, and the way their consumers interpret that through their own intellectual filters, consciously and sub-consciously. It’s not just about protection of a name, a symbol, the colours you choose. It’s about protecting what it means.

Much was written about the Barack Obama campaign. All our political parties can learn from it. Pick a clear positioning for your brand, that has relevance and resonance with your audience. Then, consistently build and reinforce your brand promise, not just with words, but also with behaviour, at every level of your organization, every day. Spend more time walking the talk. And if someone using your brand in any way, threatens the integrity of what it stands for, deal with it. Urgently.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The great Business/Marketing/Advertising disconnect

Ad agencies wish they were taken more seriously by the clients as business building partners. They feel they should have relationships higher up in the organisation and are frustrated with dealing with the lower levels of marketing management; only executing briefs as opposed to solving problems.

However -  there's a whole lot of questioning going on in the client world that impacts this wish.

In these challenging times, we know that Marketing Directors (CMO's in US terms) are under massive pressure. But there's a deeper issue: in  a recent multi-national survey done by Fournaise business consultants they found that  73% of CEO's think CMO's lack business credibility.

However, in another recent discussion that had with top CEO's, they want CMO's to have a 'seat at the top table'.

So what's going on here?

Overall, there needs to be a marketing exercise for marketing, as a business builder, not the 'girls down the passage, who organise golf days and t-shirts'.

It's a recommitment to the solid principles of knowing what the customer wants and giving it to him/her in a way that no-one else can.

In some of my executive training,  I challenge agencies to get more involved with their clients on issues like product concept innovation, to help the marketer innovate to grow their business. The general response? The marketer they deal with isn't even involved with that. It's done by "product" or "segement" - distant silo's in the business. They too are only 'implementers'. When agencies ask if they can meet the originators of the brief and raise the business discussion a notch or two, the answer is often no - people are protecting their turf rather than doing better business.

Agencies and their Client partners should make a combined effort to raise marketing's profile in the organisation, to get that seat at the top table. Agencies also need to embrace measurement and ROI - to talk in language that the CEO wants to hear.

Kimberly-Clark CMO Tony Palmer talks about 'pain points' in  an insightful article in AdAge, about agency-client partnerships. One of the points he makes is that agencies and marketers have not found a meaningful way to use measurement to elevate and empower creativity and commercial ideas".

That way, it remains 'arty' and 'fluffy', as per the Fournaise study, and there's no seat at the top table for that.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Applying brand building to Agency Brands

I read this article (see link) on how important it is to actually tell people what you're good at in order to enhance your career. I posted this on Adtherapy's Facebook page:
"there are two poles in the ad industry - those who engage in massive self congratulation and actually believe their own PR, and those that hide their enormous talent under a bushel. Why are Ad Agencies so bad at positioning their own brand? Watch the Washington Post experiment here and start telling people what you're good at :)".

The article reveals on experiment done by the Washington Post, where a world renowned violinist played on a million dollar violin outside a subway station in Washington. No-one really noticed.

On to something that puzzles me: the lack of ability of ad/communication agencies to brand themselves. They all know what a brand is, and how to bring it to life for their clients. Why choose these ridiculous names, for starters? Twelve founders surnames linked together, some of them dead?

But more than that - I posed this question to some of the top marketers in SA, and to Tony Koenderman of FinWeek:
"if I asked you to give me one positioning sentence for each of the well known agencies, could you do it? You know, like 'Levy's = jeans'; 'Virgin is the Champion of the Underdog'; 'Allan Grey is patience'?".

They (and I) could clearly position about 5 agencies. And we know the industry WELL.

AdCracker says positioning is "that one thing; that one descriptive sentence or slogan or image the brand is known for". It is of course your brand's "unique value proposition" in strat-lingo.

Agencies know this. They do it all day for their clients. But only 5 with a clearly defined brand?

So, if a marketer is in the market and wants to appoint a new agency, how do they know who to talk to? Do they have to rely on a pitch consultant? Do we need someone to help us buy other brands?

Agencies need to brief this job in and take it seriously. I know that the hardest job always is the "in-house ad", because the brief is often vague, because the thinking hasn't been done. The Agencies who have defined their "raison d'etre" (including their personality, their unique (hate that word but it's there on purpose, because there's so litte uniqueness in Agency branding) value proposition, how they differ from the next best agency) benefit from it in more ways than one.

Apart from getting noticed, the most important benefit is that they get like-minded clients, so the relationship has a good chance of being a successful partnerhsip. How can a Client choose a like-minded, culturally suited Agency if the Agency hasn't figured out what they stand for yet?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Negative energy: its effect on ad agency morale, & the work.

I read this article and I thought it was so true. I loved the simplicity of it, and the logic.
However, I know that being inside an ad agency, where you have a combination of creative and logical people, not always in the departments you might expect, negative energy is elevated to Olympic standards!

The key is this, from a management point of view. If you're at the helm, and you're the one doing the whining, it sets off a cancer like attack on the morale and energy of your team, and the quality of their work.

How can you expect your team to be 'up and at-em', if you're slagging the Client off loudly to all and sundry? It compromises your staff's integrity (especially the young, un-cynical ones), and it makes you look like a jerk. And it makes them question whether they want to do their best work for a client that their boss clearly doesn't like. And when that happens, the 'creative tap' is well and truly turned off.

So whilst a lot of this stuff in the article applies to everyone in an agency environment, the most important thing is for the management team to provide a source of positive energy, not 'I'll be on the window ledge if you need me'-energy, or even worse 'I can't be bothered to do great work for this Client'-energy.

If the Client is that 'bad' - resign the business and renew your energy with new clients.
Or sort out what's bugging you, hug and make up.
But the slag-off-and-keep-the-cash approach does no-one any good!

Monday, January 17, 2011

conflicted interest?

I came across this article and it highlighted an interesting phenomena: that of the pitch consultant, who is also the agency advisor. hmm. So interesting to fall into this trap-ette.


I have managed to avoid running pitches, not because I can't, but because I think it places me in a weird space of possible conflict. Of course I'm as honest as the day is long, but maybe, just maybe, I might believe Agency A is better than Agencies B,C and D because I know them better because I've worked with them. Who knows?

But maybe I land up actually helping the client make the right choice? So it actually benefits all parties?

Either way, it's a beige area - don't want to be seen favouring an agency of any other name :)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Recent projects by Adtherapy

Adtherapy, a company which consults on all areas of advertising to both Marketers and Ad Agencies, has recently completed the following projects:

· Agency interventions: communications, relationship, and skills audit and in-depth assessment of weakness in Agency-Client relationship, with strategic recommendations focussed on improving the quality of creative output, for SABMiller on a number of brands;

· Rules of Engagement (a process to get a new relationship between agency/client off to a good start) for SABMiller and Exclusive Books;

· Creative Advertising for Marketers workshops(one one-day interactive workshop to enhance advertising skills to all levels of Marketers) to Ackermans, Exclusive Books, van Schaik and FNB;

· a Perceptual Study on Agency Brand Reputation (interviewing top marketers about a particular agency brand and the industry in general) for a Top 10 agency;

· Pitch guidance (working with ad agency to mentor strategy, creative and pitch presentation);

· Mediation (between Creative director and agency),

· Positioning strategy for a Design agency;

· Client/Agency Remuneration Negotiation.

· Lecturing: Gillian Rightford lectures Advertising and Brand Communication at the School of Management Science at the University of Cape Town. She lectures third year Business Science and a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing. She also was appointed to develop and lecture a course to third year Stellenbosch Design Academy creative students that highlights the role of account management and strategy in agencies, and discusses how to build strong account management/creative/client partnerships for more creative, more effective, work.

· She recently did a talk to SAMRA members on Creative Advertising: Art or Science?

· Coaching and Mentoring: Gillian has conducted a number of Executive coaching and/or mentoring sessions. Gillian did a foundation Coaching course with Acclaim Human Capital, using the Co-Active Coaching method. Her Coaching philosophy is that life is not separate from work, and balance is all-important. Her coaching is aimed at Executives in the Communication Industry. Her coaching methodology works by combining coaching and mentoring – it focuses on the business challenges at hand, and works to build skills and understanding to help the candidate achieve his or her goals in a work space. The personal space is not ignored, and the approach looks to optimise both. The end goal must be balance: work and life satisfaction.