"The rate card for what we will be buying is in excess of $4 million," says Victor Grillo, CEO of ARM, adding, "But my rate will be substantially below that." The reason for those cost savings, of course, is that Grillo will be buying direct response time, which generally qualifies for rates that are fraction - usually 25 percent to 30 percent cheaper - than conventional advertising rate cards.
But even at those discounts, the seven-figure TV ad effort is unheard for an ad agency to devote on itself. In fact, even Madison Avenue's best rarely advertise themselves and when they do, it's usually no more than trade campaigns or newspaper ads touting some recently won award.
"We're going to market ourselves in 2004 using the same methodology and tracking mechanisms that we use for our clients," says Grillo, adding, "I don't know of any other marketing companies in general and ad agencies in particular that have appeared in their own national TV advertising campaigns."
In fact, the ARM spots will run during early morning news programs on Bloomberg News, CNBC, CNN, Headline News and Fox News Channel between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. weekdays. The timeslots weren't selected necessarily because they were less expensive, but because ARM is seeking to reach top executives it considers to be prospects for its direct response advertising services.
"We want to get in front of as many Fortune 1000 executives as we can to introduce them to what we consider direct response marketing to be, says Grillo ticking off what he deems to be its three main components: cheaper advertising costs, better effectiveness tracking and ads that can directly drive retail sales. "In short, it's ROI advertising," says Grillo, who bristles at the notion that mainstream ad agencies have adopted that moniker, which he claims was developed by DR shops like his own.
To illustrate those results, Grillo says the ARM campaign will rotate a series of 30- and 60-second commercials demonstrating its capabilities and providing the prerequisite 800 number to provide a backchannel for marketers to contact the agency. Armed with instantaneous feedback, Grillo says ARM will pulled ads that aren't working and will heavy up on the ones that are.
As for ARM's anticipated ROI, Grillo says the agency hopes to pick up at least five blue chip clients and $50 million in direct response advertising assignments, enough to double its billings base.
"We're going to practice what we preach by doing what we do for out clients," says Grillo. "I expect this campaign will generate more revenue than it costs me. And if it doesn't, I'll pull it down."