Question from a digital seller: It seems like every year I expect to see some kind of summer slowdown where I can gear up for Q4; didn’t happen again. Are we getting ready for a big end to the year for digital advertising?
Jason says: In fourth grade, my teacher gave us a summer reading list. We were to read a book every two weeks and write a short report in a journal. As the words left her lips, I was already forgetting about it, not to be thought of again until the first morning of the following school year when my fifth grade teacher asked us how our reading went. Oops. For some reason, we feel like there should be some sort of slowdown in the summer. I mean, we walk slower, we sweat more and school's out. So, why shouldn't that translate to less work?
We've addressed the subject of "summer hours" before, but this summer has actually been quite active in our business. There have been a slew of summer IPOs (Facebook and Zynga) and acquisitions (Buddy Media, Vitrue, AKQA, Yammer & Aegis, among others). With the Olympic flame turned to embers and summer houses being disinfected as we speak, perhaps we can catch our breaths (people take their real vacations in August).
It's important right now to get a good lay of the land for what’s happening in our environment as we approach the heart of Q4 planning. There is a lot of focus on the big boys. Microsoft has played with its privacy policies. AOL has Huffington Post driving its video strategy. Google is perpetually sharpening "search" while YouTube is aggressively creating new video content. Yahoo is going to try to make certain big splashes under new leadership, and Facebook is working doubly hard to prove to advertisers, as well as PR-mongers, that its advertising model works.
The economic situation in Europe is uncertain. China seems to be slowing (not just in their medal count) and the U.S. economic picture is unclear. Further, the elections will play a strong part of any equation, not just with our media scheduling but with human sentiment about the future of our country’s leadership.
How will all this affect digital sales efforts? Although there will be a lot of money spent on advertising, Q4 is not the time to launch new products. Stick to what your advertisers know and like. Focus on the value you have already created for your current clients and reassure them that your present model works for them. Don’t try to introduce newer, more ambitious plans now. Concentrate on products that can translate quickly into quantifiable results. Also, stress that you are nimble and can be flexible with schedules, creative, etc. Now might also be the time to mention any javelin training you may have.
Save the new stuff for Q1 pitches and focus on the butter to your bread for Q4. Oh, and get back to me with a full report in the fall. Thankfully, you will not be graded.
Amy, how was your summer and what do your folks expect for the rest of the year?
Amy says: I won’t say busiest summer ever, because I would say that every year. But summer hours for me are a thing of the past. I am officially declaring that the slowing in summer is a myth (nothing about Usain Bolt is slow), never to exist in reality again.
In reality, some clients plan for Q4 all year. This is especially true for retail, but all clients are going to be looking back to what has happened for them in 2012 so far and try to make their numbers before the ball drops. When you’re selling for Q4, there isn’t room for the unknown, per Jason’s point. But this Q4 is special in terms of holiday, because Thanksgiving comes early and there is one additional week in the season. Maybe there’s an opportunity for selling programs that were effective earlier in the year, and the time we have will make it easy to replicate the successes.
As soon as Black Friday hits, some teams may be downshifting, as 2013 planning is probably mostly done. Take advantage of the spirit of the season and focus on relationship building. Summer parties are over, so holiday celebrations must begin. That is a great forum to start laying groundwork for 2013. Your company is probably contemplating new products for 2013, and the conversations you have in Q4 can inform 2013 product development.
How will 2012 end? I’m always tentative about making predictions in writing, because I have been wrong before. Our industry has nowhere to go but up, and the next few months should be an acceleration of economic improvement. Be enterprising, be celebratory: it’s up to you to make sure that Q4 is the best ever. Because after all, you don’t want McKayla to be unimpressed.