Permission to do better creative

Recently I criticized some creative work and was in turn criticized for doing so. My client told me that, while the work wasn’t out of the box, it was "solid, and besides - the client is conservative and a small business manager" - meaning risk-averse? I’ve heard this sort of defense frequently enough over the years that it's prompted this little rant. 

Any and all creative ideas or work that you + your agency presents should leverage your client's USP. Your job is to turn the client’s advertising expenditures (both media + creative) into wise business building investments. The difference between a good and a great ad campaign begins with a different mental perspective; like figuring out how to help the brand stand out from the crowd while remaining “on brand”.

Relative to your competition . . . you can make a brand stand out with greater REACH (using as more media channels), greater FREQUENCY (telling the story more often), greater RELEVANCE (breaking down and effectively describing as many relevant product or service benefits as possible), and MORE STOPPING POWER (doing something that stops the audience, causing them to take notice of and comprehend your message - and then take positive action). 

When ad agencies review their portfolio to see which work should be submitted for an award, they're invariably looking at message relevance in the context of stopping power.

When agencies recruit graphic artists or writers they too look at the candidate's portfolio and judge the body of work's message relevance in the context of stopping power.

Ads with a lot of sales potential need to be sold to the client first. To reduce un-billable agency (client related hours) it's helpful for the account team to know what kind of work the client will buy, and to make that clear to the creative team. 

Because not all clients are created equal consider "gauging" you client's risk tolerance when it comes to both MEDIA + CREATIVE work. After all, the two must work hand-in-hand.

Ask your clients questions regarding their perspective on communications risk - and how your agency can help them manage it.

Is the "same-old-same-old" the lane they really want to live and die in, or is there some room + desire to explore new ways of reaching and talking to the audience

What specifically is "risky" for them - and what isn't? Don't assume . . . ask. 

How does an understanding of the client's specific "risk triggers" open up opportunities for you and the agency to do better work for the client - on time, on budget and on brand? 

Are they willing to set aside a "new media ideas" testing budget? 

Are they willing to set aside a "new creative ideas" testing budget?

Can the agency and the client agree on realistic, outcomes and metrics that will help you steer future media and creative discussions, recommendations and marketing plans? If so - great. If not - good luck.




Imagine having 30 years of proprietary data

Google’s search engine was launched on September 15, 1997. It is now the most widely used search engine on the web, with over 92% market share as of June 2019, handling more than 5.4 billion searches each day. In the early days no one worried about page rank and SEO because most webs were Brochure sites, which a company’s sales team referred prospective clients to “for more information” - just to demonstrate that they (and their ad agency) knew how to utilize this new medium. In April 2004 Google introduced (free) Gmail and in November 2005 they introduced the world to their game-changing Google Analytics™ service. Analytics was a game-changer because, to most small to mid-size businesses, Google's offer seemed like the ultimate value proposition: a lot more (and a continuous stream of) data for free . . .  with no obligations. It seemed too good to be true. It was, and, it still is. While the offer didn’t come with any apparent limitations per se, there was one very important restriction that most people didn't pay any attention to: while Google Analytics provided you with some new + interesting information about your company’s online behaviour, you learned nothing about the competition, your business category or the prevailing business climate in your trading area. Importantly, the FREE data service addicted users to Google’s online performance data and blinded them to other valuable research tools. Around the same time a wide variety of online data interpretation service providers sprang up, promising to help busy organizations interpret data, that Google discreetly mined, for insights into to the client’s own marketing programs. Website organization + optimization, PPC and display advertising campaigning strategies and tactics as well as social media buying tactics (on Google’s ever expanding media monopoly) can all be improved with this data. The objective of all data mining strategies is the same: to put more of my client’s ads, emails and push notices in front of you. Then the world changed again: In 2014 Canada enacted the CASL legislation. It was launched and promised to reinforce best practices in email marketing, combat spam and related issues like identity theft, phishing, and the spread of malicious software, viruses, worms and trojans. In 2018 US Congress proposed + passed a comprehensive data privacy policy as well. In a nutshell, the Canadian, American (and European) privacy legislation has led Google to close most of the data (mining) loopholes that were being exploited by independent online message optimization consultants. The changes have stopped data mining companies from supplying their clients search engine derived data interpretations that have give them a competitive business communications edge (in the past). Except this change in data privacy laws does not affect those business that have made it their own ongoing business to have a robust proprietary data collection and interpretation policy and program (even if that program represents just one part-time student).

Consider this . . . 

The companies that began collecting, tracking, comparing and analyzing their own data when all of this online stuff started in the late 1990’s, would now have THIRTY YEARS OF PROPRIETARY (ONLINE) MARKETING DATA to work with. 

Those who own 30 or more years of proprietary data today made just one decision that the others didn’t: they did not stop collecting their own data just because Google offered them a nicely organized + presented data stream for free.




My 20\20 wish for all of you


This being the international year of 20\20 vision, I hope that in 2020 we all see it, get it, and do something about it. That we move beyond B.S. and platitudes and change the world for the better – one decision at a time. Starting right now.

On your marks, get set, GO! 



Omnichannel (holiday) Shopping

In November 2019, Christine Meehan, with Google Consumer Insights reported that “Holiday shoppers may have different approaches to where, how and when they buy, but they also have something in common: their shopping journeys usually start online.”

I’ve included highlights of Christine’s article below (in italics) as well as her recommendations which, if you read them carefully, reminds you that there’s far more to advertising + sales success than utilizing more of Google’s marketing tools to optimize your marketing funnel (using Google's myopic, self centered business model).

The setup of Christine's article is a no brainer: before you buy, people talk to other people, look at ads on and offline (think newspapers, magazines, flyers, out of home ads, transit ads, as well as radio and TV). But the recommendations that Christine leaves you with should get you thinking long and hard because they are misleading 1/2 truths.

100% TRUE: you need a broad  (traditional and online) multi-media advertising campaign based marketing funnel that drives prospects to your (open) store doors and e-commerce website.

100% TRUE: involve all stakeholders in the mobilization of your marketing and advertising plan. To effectively model your brand's unique marketing funnel, lots of heads are better than one.

100% FALSE: your marketing plan should NOT start or end with Google. Despite what Google would like you to think, Google is not a proxy for reality.

Google is just another media option.

Putting that much faith in Google is just plain stupid.

“Last year, a joint holiday report between Google and Ipsos found most Canadian holiday shoppers are omnichannel. They use multiple sources while shopping (such as visiting a website or heading to a store) and split their time almost equally between online and offline channels.

“The holiday season is an opportunity for teams to unite — to think about the reasons why these channels work together, and what holiday shoppers are looking for in an omnichannel experience.

“Holiday shoppers are heading online to decide where to shop. Canadian holiday shoppers are choosing which stores to visit based on their online research. Today’s omnichannel shopper is more informed and intentional.

“The report found that 39% of holiday shoppers were looking up local store information, and 31% were searching for nearby stores.

Of the shoppers using search, millennials are the generation least likely to choose a physical store over an online one, with most of their purchases happening online. However, when they do shop in-store, 82% of millennials are searching online first.

“Omnichannel customers head online to help inform their purchase decision, whether they end up making their purchase (there) or not. 

“Shoppers want to feel more confident. 

“Shoppers are looking for convenience.

“Customers are hunting for deals. 

“With so many Canadians turning to more than one shopping source during the holidays, companies should plan for ways to reach customers online and offline. Although the holiday season has begun, there’s still time to execute omnichannel plans now. Encourage data-sharing between teams — and share success: Facilitate the conversation between online and store teams early, and encourage data sharing to measure success together. Prepare your website and open the doors to your store: Think of your digital ads and online presence as the doors to your online store. Make sure your store product inventory is available online, and holiday hours are updated and accurate on your website and on Google Maps through Google My Business. Keep reviews front-and-centre to greet shoppers, and make sure your mobile site is working and ready to handle the increased load. You can test your website speed with Google tool Test My Site. Drive campaigns to your store: Online advertising doesn’t just drive online sales — it drives omnichannel sales. Adding drive-to-store campaign types and strategies that achieve both online and offline goals will allow you to capture holiday shoppers as they engage with your brand across multiple channels.




Stop the insanity and say no to Black Friday.

say no to black friday

Across North America everybody wants more for less – plus a lifetime guarantee. To satisfy this insane and insatiable desire for more cheap food, goods and services, we’ve sent millions of jobs to Asia and India. We’ve also done a wonderful job of teaching our kids that many jobs are not worth doing or having. This mentality has shut down industries and laid waste to cities, towns and individuals all across America and Canada. Where will this end?

When companies don't earn decent profit margins their foundations crumble.

  • They cut back on full time staff, training, development and benefits.
  • Full time staff is rehired as part-time staff with no benefits.
  • They no longer can afford to do research and development.
  • Without leading edge research and development their managers blindly follow the “best practices” of their competitors, and fail because they can't create or defend a relevant USP.
  • Part time staff juggles two, sometimes three, jobs to make ends meet.
  • Because they are just making ends meet, time and money to support the arts and those who are less fortunate also declines.
  • It impacts time at home with family + friends.
  • And the shit-list goes on and on.

Why not charge a fair price and invest the profits in your people, your communities, your industries and your home and native land - Canada?