Is Your Business Plan Failing
You rely on professionals for sound advice on legal, banking and personnel issues. In the new age of media, is a marketing pro no less important?
Traditional media is evolving. New media is providing marketing tools never before imagined. Companies that develop successful strategies for using both effectively will reign. It’s an exciting time if you’re up to the challenge, and the role of a professional media partner has never been more important for success in local business. But their business models are changing too.
Full-service agencies have to keep up with emerging trends if they want to stay ahead and compete with more and more companies focused solely on digital media. We asked industry pros on both sides of the advertising fence questions in a virtual roundtable about how their roles have changed, new products and services they’re developing and where they plan to take their business in 2012.
Leaders from 10 traditional, full-service agencies weighing in include George Graham of Graham Group, Jaci Russo of Russo Ad Group, Bob Holbrook of Holbrook Multimedia, Sara Ashy of BBR Creative, George Foster of Foster Marketing, Kevin Prejean of Prejean Creative, Frankie Russo of Potenza Creative, Julie Calzone of Calzone & Associates, Cheryl Taylor Bowie of Right Angle and Larry Sides of Sides & Associates.
The five business owners from new media-related companies who participated include Tyler Woerner of Pixelbrush Studios, Jared Allardyce of Wide Web Marketing (formerly Alien Marketing), Brian Bille of Kinetic Marketing, Euna Poole with Bizzuka and Spencer Hoyt of Comit Developers.
These 15 professionals weigh in on the current state of the industry and give us a sneak peek into the future of advertising in Acadiana.
Full Service Agency Round Table
How is the role of a full-service ad agency different today than it was 10 years ago?
George Graham: The best way to answer that question is to say that the only two things that remain the same as a decade ago are “creative ideas are key” and “research and media targeting are crucial.” Everything else has been radically changed by digital technology and expanded media offerings.
Jaci Russo: Full-service ad agencies are a dying breed. Much like with health care, clients need specialists that can provide the best service for their area of expertise. Agencies that don’t evolve will die.
Bob Holbrook: I feel that if an agency today is not willing to embrace it all, regardless of its potential lifespan, they are shortchanging their clients.
Sara Ashy: Agencies of today have to be better consultants and educators for the client. They need trusted advisors to help them make informed decisions regarding which mediums and vehicles of communication will effectively engage their audiences.
George Foster: Ten years ago, the Internet and social networks were still in their infancy. Now, if you don’t have a digital strategist and strong search engine marketing and social media programs, you’re way behind.
Kevin Prejean: The core role of an agency is still to partner with clients in crafting and communicating their story. But, with so many new tools and communication channels available now, clients often rely heavily on the agency to evaluate which tools are appropriate and how to integrate them.
Frankie Russo: I think the largest difference in our agency today is the introduction of interactive media, especially social media to the marketing mix. This has changed the focus away from simply traditional agency offerings.
Julie Calzone: Full-service agencies have had to transform themselves with the digital age and need to remember that they are in the communication business. We create connections and community for our clients.
Larry Sides: What has changed is the availability of new tools and new media and new approaches to traditional media. We still rely on the shotgun approach of broad-based media to reach mass and targeted audiences, but today we also rely on new media when our messages need to be refined even more or when seeking an instant and more personalized dialogue.
Cheryl Taylor Bowie: The media we utilize have changed, but good ideas are timeless. Creativity will always be the critical component, whether it is strategy or design.
How have the Internet and social media impacted your service offerings?
Prejean: From a creativity standpoint it’s very exciting, because you can communicate more information in an interesting way more easily than via traditional media. Social media communication and online advertising can be effective components of an integrated campaign.
Holbrook: Social media has given our clients the means to reach out, to stay in touch with and broadcast to their target market/audience at very little cost.
Jaci Russo: The Internet and social media have had an enormous impact on our business and our client’s. These tools have created inbound marketing opportunities where consumers find businesses rather than businesses searching for consumers.
Graham: The shift toward one-to-one conversations through online advertising and social media creates a two-way dialogue with relevant buyers targeted by geography, demographics and online behavior.
Foster: As a full-service marketing communications firm, we don’t put together a marketing communications plan without considering digital and public relations components and how they should be integrated into the plan to get better results.
Larry Sides: Much of our work involves grassroots communication, where we handle program and social change initiatives and public policy and political issues. Social media are powerful tools to connecting, informing, organizing and calling to action diverse individuals and groups for a common purpose.
Calzone: Each one of our clients has its own digital sphere/core (website) that social media and other platforms are integrated into to maximize performance and results for the client.
Have the marketing needs of your clients changed dramatically over the past few years?
Frankie Russo: Yes. Design has shifted away from print ads and billboards to Web banners and e-mail layouts. Our video production division is still predominantly producing TV commercials, but a new demand on Web videos has shifted some of our production workflow.
Ashy: Yes. They have to do more with less. For example, they have to expand the same marketing dollars among many different activities: corporate giving, donations, Web presence, trade shows, online marketing efforts, traditional ad placement and online ad placement, etc.
Calzone: The needs are the same. Clients want more business. They want to create more lifetime value from each customer along with new revenue.
Bowie: Clients are more sophisticated today. They get marketing. The learning curve has shortened and it’s an easier sell.
Holbrook: The inclusion of social media and the Internet has forced our clients to consider what media mix is best to reach their primary target market. They’re also having to spend money on SEO, Web managers and other related services that were not even in existence 10 years ago.
In your opinion, what is the best way for your clients to reach consumers today?
Graham: Current strategy is no different than before — focused creative messaging targeted with pinpoint accuracy. It’s just that now our options are greater in how we can achieve results.
Foster: We are strong believers in integrating offline marketing efforts with your online presence. For example, using a billboard to promote a Web app or including social media contacts in TV advertising. If you are a business who is ignoring digital, you are missing many opportunities.
Frankie Russo: If they can afford to place some more traditional forms of media, I still love TV, especially for branding. For those clients with limited campaign budgets, we have had more success with interactive campaigns using Facebook and Google’s intelligent behavioral ad placements, as well as ongoing e-mail campaigns and organic social-influenced marketing.
What are the most common misconceptions that locally-based businesses have when developing a marketing plan?
Bowie: It’s not just local clients. Business owners everywhere often don’t appreciate the depth of branding. A brand is not just a logo. It’s deeper than that. It’s the story, the personality of the business.
Jaci Russo: The biggest misconception of local companies is that they can do it themselves.
Graham: The fatal flaw is in thinking in the short term. Brand-building marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Budget appropriately for a long-term program.
Sides: Clients sometimes feel the relationship with a firm like ours is best viewed as a client and its communications services production vendor. However, our most successful relationships — the scenarios where we provide the greatest value — occur when we are seen as a partner.
Frankie Russo: The most common misconception for a locally based business is the “we have already branded ourselves” mentality and “we don’t need to market ourselves anymore.”
What is the biggest challenge in your business right now?
Ashy: Keeping up with the newest marketing technology! Not only are there new advancements in Web design and development, but also social media use and functionality is growing at an exponential rate.
Prejean: Finding the time to stay ahead of new technology. There’s always the latest, greatest piece of software or hardware that we want to evaluate, buy, learn and possibly implement.
Foster: An ever-changing media landscape can make staying up to date a daunting task for even the most digital-savvy marketers.
Calzone: Proving that it can all be done in Louisiana, by Louisiana people and technology.
Will you be offering any new products/services to keep up with evolving trends in 2012?
Frankie Russo: Yes. We are launching a new interactive video product that serves up videos on Google, Yahoo, YouTube and Facebook’s networks. Instead of these videos being randomly served up to users, they are strategically placed on websites based on the user’s Web browsing habits.
Calzone: I am continuing our efforts to create new methods to market, including our own digital/film division, extension18films.com.
Holbrook: We’re offering beyond HD for larger video projects and all related support services. In addition, we’ve added a Web-focused department that works with businesses to produce Web video productions of all types. Note that 2011 was the first time that Web visitors viewed more video than read text. For us, we’re having the most fun we’ve ever had in the last 34 years of business.
Prejean: We love the opportunities presented by digital publishing, like providing enhanced content that can be accessed via mobile and tablet devices. That’s one trend we’ll be helping clients take advantage of in 2012.
Ashy: Content development will be an important component of what we offer to clients in 2012. They want to use social media to communicate but now have to develop a lot of content to keep the consumer engaged. Also, BBR’s digital department is growing and we plan to unveil a full range of exciting new digital service offerings this year.
Graham: With the convergence of offline and online messaging, we are offering more Web-responsive media placement with embedded QR codes as well as mobile apps and social media strategies.
Bowie: Right Angle prides itself on a collective approach — everyone here participates on every account — and this led to the development of our new creative immersion package. It’s a process that allows us to experience our clients’ culture. Also, we’ve expanded our creative department and added an internal video production division, particularly for digital media.
Digitial Media Round Table
Why did you decide to focus on digital media as opposed to traditional when starting your business?
Euna Poole: Digital media offered quantifiable results and a measurable audience, whereas traditional media only offered immeasurable results based upon a theoretical audience. Digital media also allows you to adjust your message instantly and get real-time feedback.
Tyler Woerner: The Web has the lowest barrier of entry of all mass mediums. Anyone with a computer can contribute. The more I learned about the technology, the more opportunities opened up for growing a business around Web services.
Spencer Hoyt: By having a strong Web presence, the client’s site works better for him/her because it is able to drive traffic to business. Driving traffic results in sales, leads and contacts for our clients.
Jared Allardyce: The Web provides unprecedented capabilities to target specific audiences and track dollars spent versus new leads and sales. Internet marketing can be very cost effective if tracked and managed properly.
Brian Bille: Kinetic Marketing decided to focus on digital media because there are enough talented agencies in the area working with traditional media. We feel that the future is in digital media.
In your opinion, what Web features are most important in helping your clients reach consumers today?
Hoyt: We have four methods of helping our clients reach their consumers: organic SEO, local SEO, pay-per-click advertising and social media. These four methods can be used singly or in conjunction with each other.
Bille: The most important way to help my clients reach consumers is to teach them how to build effective relationships online and engage with the public. Too many organizations are still trying to “sell” through social media and that simply gets you nowhere in the grand scheme of things.
Poole: There are four things that must be addressed in every company’s marketing strategy: social, local, mobile and video. A good website will incorporate elements that encourage social engagement, such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter feeds and ratings. Every company should claim their local listing on Google and incorporate maps to their location on the company’s website.
Woerner: Consumers are looking online for answers. Any feature that gives users clearer answers gets a lot of attention on a business website. Simple things like clear pricing, quality pictures or video and even well written FAQs are still the most effective.
Allardyce: Search Engine Optimization has become a crucial part of building and promoting websites. It is no longer enough to just have a nice-looking website. Written content is king and must be well planned and implemented for the purpose of showing up in relevant Internet searches.
What are the most common misconceptions that locally-based businesses have when developing a Web/marketing campaign?
Woerner: They fear competition so they hold back. Too often I see businesses hold back on highlighting their unique benefits or resources because they are afraid that if it is published, everyone will steal it.
Hoyt: The most common misconception with Web marketing is that local business owners feel that if they have a website, then people will find them on the Web. A good, solid Web presence is not that simple. Search engines have millions of sites to crawl, and our SEO team is constantly reviewing best practices for optimization.
Poole: Many companies view their website as a form of advertisement, and in so doing, those companies design sites that fail to reach their objectives. Additionally, many companies fail to realize that Web-enabling certain processes within the organization can decrease costs and increase customer retention.
Bille: That you have to spend a lot of money, have the most beautiful (which typically results in a non-functional) website with all of the bells and whistles and that you have to use one of the “big” agencies because of their experience.
What is the biggest challenge in your business right now?
Allardyce: Our biggest challenge is helping our clients and potential clients weigh the importance of online marketing against traditional forms of marketing.
Poole: Our biggest challenge is finding extraordinary talent. While Lafayette is a great place to start a business, it’s still a small community and the population of developers is even smaller.
Hoyt: I would say the biggest challenge is to constantly innovate and stay ahead of the newest Web trends and technologies. Five years ago, few even considered building a website for a smartphone. Now, we would not consider building one without that ability.
Bille: The biggest challenge in my business is helping clients and prospects understand it’s time to reshape their marketing and advertising efforts. In my opinion, while Lafayette is way ahead of the curve in a lot of ways, there is still a tremendous amount of old-school thinking in how to execute a marketing strategy to increase revenue.
What do you think is the next phase of new media?
Poole: Mobile devices will become the primary mode of communication and the primary access point for consuming and sharing Internet-based content.
Bille: Mobile will continue to grow, and it will grow by leaps and bounds beyond mobile apps for smartphones.
Hoyt: Social media, e-mail newsletters, QR codes, video blogs, local SEO.
Woerner: I imagine TV will change the most over the next few years as bandwidth becomes more available. The Internet is the premier provider of on-demand content and entertainment, but your TV is really where most of us prefer to watch it.
Allardyce: Social media marketing is still relatively new and has a lot of evolving to do. In just a few short years, consumers have made the transition from being marketed to, to being part of the marketing message.
Will you be offering new products/services to keep up with evolving trends in 2012?
Woerner: We have started offering clients an online marketing plan. It covers everything from SEO to marketing on Facebook. Our belief is that online marketing is about authenticity and availability, so online campaigns are best executed by the staff of a company. This report becomes their handbook.
Allardyce: Currently, we are working on achieving better user experiences for viewing our websites on phones and tablets.
Hoyt: Our latest service is a reputation awareness service that monitors brands on various social media platforms.
Bille: We’re always looking for the next big thing that can help our clients succeed but won’t jump on the bandwagon of something that’s brand new just for the sake of it.
Poole: Absolutely … many are currently under way.
The Changing Face of Advertising
It’s a good time to be in the advertising and media business if you’re willing to keep up.
“Right now is really a great time for advertising in general,” says Acadiana Advertising Federation President Daniel Kedinger. While the industry has changed greatly from just 10 years ago, Kedinger says there are exciting opportunities for both agencies and customers who are willing to adapt and go with the flow.
“I know there are some agencies in town who have started hiring digital media specialists and coordinating campaigns,” he says. “A quality campaign is going to require to hit all the bases for your audience.”
That’s really the key nowadays, and those bases include everything from Twitter and Facebook to websites and e-newsletters. As owner of Cruce Design, Kedinger has designed websites for Bayou Teche Biere and Acadiana Eats, and says websites are becoming a necessary thing for businesses who want to connect with their customers. “Things like the yellow pages and other ways people used to find services are going by wayside,” he says. “If a retail business doesn’t have a website, they miss a huge potential audience.”
He adds that, for businesses, having a presence online is much more important than selling their products that way. “The rush to get and sell online isn’t going to be as needed as some people think. In this market, we’re not that far to drive and go get a product,” he says.
When it comes to selling these ideas, along with social media and other Web products, to clients, Kedinger says more education is needed. Customers need to be educated about what they don’t realize they need and businesses need to be educated on emerging trends, like social media. Advertising is no longer about hitting the mass market. Facebook and Twitter allow businesses to highly target their messages and products and, in turn, allow customers to tune out messages they’re not interested in.
“I think we’re moving toward a stronger niche culture,” says Kedinger. “It used to be, you put it out on radio, TV, billboards and someone stumbles on the message. Today, the challenge and the trend is reaching and figuring out ways to allow people to choose how they’re marketed to.”
About AAF Acadiana
Serving professionals in the advertising, marketing, sales and public relations industries, AAF is a membership-based organization offering education and networking opportunities. By presenting speakers at monthly luncheons, holding an annual media auction and hosting the local ADDY Awards, which reward designers for their work, AAF celebrates the creative services of Acadiana. Visit aafacadiana.com/membership/join-the-club/ to join.
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