Log Off: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

Why marketers need to gamble on new media

When I tell people I run an ad agency, they tend to ask the same question: Why would anyone need an ad agency? The answer lies in how people adapt as the marketplace evolves.

It amazes me to meet with some clients and see them stuck in a pattern that consistently fails. There are marketers who complain that their media plan is not working, but continue to do the exact same things over and over, expecting different results. That's my definition of insanity.

Many marketers make the same mistakes, but don't recognize they're in a rut. For instance, a lot of advertisers keep pouring more money than they should into a single medium - particularly TV - when they could redeploy some of those dollars into effective multimedia campaigns.

Reluctance to change is a huge factor. With change come risks, but those risks enable growth.

Recognizing the need for help is the first step to changing. We must face our fears head-on with honesty. Once we make ourselves vulnerable, then change can happen. Vulnerability is our biggest risk. For some, that might be too much to handle. It could mean failure, but you can't succeed unless you try. Anchoring an entire campaign around TV ads simply doesn't work anymore.

Once we face the reality of the changing marketplace, we're ready to take the next step. Until then, our marketing will remain unmanageable. The evidence is seen in the way dollars are spent. The TV upfront, for example, has taken a hit from many marketers who are growing more confused about where to spend their money.

Repeating something over and over and expecting different results is what got us here. Many advertisers have shied away from emerging media. During the upfront, advertisers complain about the ultimate value, yet they still participate. Advertisers need to recognize that an agency can bring clarity and understanding.

Accepting the wisdom of your agency and incorporating its honest feedback will set the stage for change to begin. Advertisers have lagged at adopting new technology. Media auctions, video on demand, and time-shifted viewing can make heads spin. Put aside the ego and accept outside help. The ego can prevent progress.

For marketers willing to check their egos, assessing past efforts is the first step toward improving campaigns. Clients need to review past initiatives honestly. Sure, some of them were wildly successful but plenty were not.

Take responsibility for past performance and come clean. The truth will set you free. Perhaps someone should post a confessional over DaimlerChrysler's Dr. Z campaign, for example.

Once we come clean, it is important to be sure we are ready for the impending changes. To be ready requires openness and the ability to listen to others. Work with your agency to "plug the holes." The changes should start to take shape.

Don't get stuck in the past. Learn from Dodge, which withdrew its sponsorship of the Lingerie Bowl after an avalanche of protests. The company said it was sorry and moved on.

Be open to new ideas. If you find you are repeating the old habits, quickly get back on track. It's important to constantly self- assess. Don't fear failure. If you make a mistake, the progress you achieved is still there.

Don't keep secrets: Involve your agency by keeping an open and honest dialogue. It will help everyone in the end. The type of relationship you establish with your agency can go one of two ways: It can be adversarial or a team effort.

Give change a chance.

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