Marketers: Fire Your Agency If...
People throw around the term "experiential" ad budget, like it's a line item that is increased or decreased depending how much money a marketer has to "throw away" on the newest, hottest thing in advertising. In reality, the first time you use any form of advertising, it's experiential to you. If tomorrow you buy a billboard in Times Square for the first time, you are hoping that it shows return. Beyond that, you should be looking to see whether or not that billboard showed a higher rate of return than other places you could have allocated your marketing resources.
The purpose of experimenting is to find greater rates of return so that you can allocate your media spending more efficiently and effectively. This being the case, it would seem intuitive that experimentation becomes an even more important function when resources are limited. I would argue that given the current media ecosystem, where traditional methods are showing diminishing return and new media formats are constantly evolving, a marketer's ability to test the return on as many media options as possible is a major competitive advantage. What marketers, and their agencies, should be looking for in tough economic times are ways in which they can continue to reach people effectively given decreased budgets. If they can do this, a down economic cycle can offer the opportunity to increase market share, as competitors continue to spend limited resources against less efficient marketing methods.
A couple of things to remember while tightening your belt: All budgets are test budgets. You might have bought TV last month, but you haven't bought it this month. Is the return the same? How are you measuring return? Set goals and clear objectives when using a form of media you have not used in the past. Will you know it performed better than other places you are spending money? If it does, how quickly can you shift your resources? Don't forget that media vendors should be your partners in this; they should be bending over backward to demonstrate return so that you can make effective decisions.
Rate of innovation is a competitive advantage in every market, and marketing is not an exception. Never stop looking for ways to connect in ways that are clearer, deeper, more effective and CHEAPER. Let others use the argument that spending on what you know is the best way to ride out a down turn. If your client or agency tries to sell you that argument, fire them.