Archive for the ‘Advertising’ Category

Between 2006 and 2009, there have been so many changes in how advertisers, media planners and clients view their marketing efforts!

Social media, viral marketing, customer experience, two-way communication about products and services, more transparency in how products and services are reviewed, mobile advertising, portable intelligent devices, games and gaming consoles as advertising platforms… the list goes on and on – and the target is constantly moving.

So where does someone who’s new to the game, or someone who’s completely confused about what to do and how much to spend, go?

The Razorfish Digital Outlook Report 2009 is easily the most insightful articulation of the changes we see in the online world today.

Razorfish Digital Outlook Report 2009

Razorfish Digital Outlook Report 2009

Not only are organizations modifying their budgets for a more digital skew, they’re changing the mix to less SEM and more social and interactive online media. As most marketers have predicted, top-down branding is losing significance and social media messages are resulting in increased influence in purchase decisions. Advertising on social networks isn’t doing very well, and while that will improve over the next 3 quarters, going after “influencers” is still paramount.

The one biggest take-away some marketers in India still haven’t completely got their hands around: If you want your brand to be well known, it should be visible and movable across media: TV, newsprint, magazines, niche publications, mobile, portals, discussion boards, social media, intranets and even down to your recruitment consultants. It’s not too late to start listening to conversations and participate in engaging customers across all these channels.

Seth Godin, in one of his brilliant “condensed wisdom” blog posts, says:

“Who should you listen to? The critics? The fans?
You should listen to the people who tell the most people about you. Listen to the people who thrive on sharing your good works with others. If you delight these people, you grow.”

The best way to engage these hives is to take a huge dive into the social media space. Will it bring you more sales? Probably not directly – but if you take Dell as an example, that works too.


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I was forwarded this (old) stirring article by Andy Rutledge, titled “Compromised Design” recently. I’ve heard this before – from an agency head, from stubborn designers/visualizers, from client servicing people and even from some “clients”. This is a topic that is close to everyone’s heart, particularly people who are in design agencies or people who are churning out the “creative” work.

From the article: “Compromise is the refuge of the inept and weak–minded. It can be described in sugarcoated terms and even associated with lofty ideals for the purpose of misdirection, but compromise is nothing less than failure.”

This I agree with – compromises, or reaching middle ground on design or copy is a failure. It’s either a failure of the person giving the brief to articulate his/her needs, or the failure of the designer in understanding the brief, or a failure of the designer to execute his or her idea well.

But, isn’t this an intrinsic part of people working together? Isn’t this conflict bound to happen because of people’s differences in exposure, education, backgrounds and work experience? So then why do designers/visualizers/client servicing people moan and groan when their work is not immediately liked, approved and shot off to production? Why do clients insist on unfathomable, sometimes even idiotic changes and then go and ruin everything?

Visit Andy's site - He's got a lot of very interesting articles!

Sure, there are times when no compromise is needed at all – when it all clicks into place instantly. No, this isn’t an unachievable utopia – it has happened to me a few times. I either delivered something that was approved and shot off to production with zero modifications, or I received something from an agency that worked so well that I didn’t want to change a thing.

“Compromised Design” happens to us. Everyday, if you’re involved in communication. How do you try and avoid it? Get or give a detailed, articulate brief. Understand the unwritten/unspoken brief as well – the true purpose of creating what you’ve been assigned. Calibrate the client’s expectations with your own delivery capability. Follow a bunch of best practices.

Sure, there are all these ways to avoid design compromise all the time, and be like Howard Roark and “stay true” to your creation. In a perfect world, maybe doing all that for every single assignment would be possible. But its not a perfect world, it happens to the best of us, and it can be frustrating. Just keep reminding yourself: Conflict is good, and a lot of times the result of compromised design is actually pretty good.

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After a long break, I’m back! Getting a new job, new work responsibilities, getting prepared to get married and moving into a new house just took up way more time than I expected 🙂 Ok now that the applause has died down [I wish], lets get down to business…

Has anyone wondered why the people in Online Marketing and SEO working for software services get their kicks on pathetic lead/prospect numbers? You know what I’m talking about – “We got a new lead today!” or “Oh look a whole *8* people clicked on our website today” or “Gee did you see that new trend in our web stats? We seem to have got 80% more visitors this week – that’s 20 people more than last week!” or “Whoa! 40 people unsubscribed to our newsletter! That’s bad!”

I’ve actually heard very similar statements in the recent past, and it has never failed to amaze me – I mean the guys who have “normal” consumer websites ranking in the 100,000 visits/subscribers range must be laughing their heads off at those puny figures. But then something happens, and people get luck, and it so happens that one individual of those 5 visitors actually ends up giving us a contract. And this led me to start questioning my belief in 100% rational marketing techniques. If you do everything right and you still don’t get what you expect, then obviosly something’s wrong with what you consider “right”. This led me to a document on Tom Peter’s website, called “The Pursuit of Luck” which has a list of 50 strategies to get lucky. It made fascinating reading…

Innovation is a low-odds business and luck sure helps. (Its jolly well helped me!) If you believe that success does owe a lot to luck, and that luck in turn owes a lot to getting in the way of unexpected opportunities, you need not throw up your hands in despair. There are strategies you can pursue to get a little nuttiness into your life, and perhaps, then, egg on good luck. (By contrast, if you believe that orderly plans and getting up an hour earlier are the answer, then by all means arise before the rooster and start planning.)

Want to get lucky? Try following these 50 (!) strategies:

1. At-bats. More times at the plate, more hits.
2. Try it. Cut the baloney and get on with something.
3. Ready. Fire. Aim. (Instead of Ready. Aim. Aim. Aim. …)
4. If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.G.K. Chesterton. Youve gotta start somewhere.
5. Read odd stuff. Look anywhere for ideas.
6. Visit odd places. Want to see speed? Visit CNN.
7. Make odd friends.
8. Hire odd people. Boring folks, boring ideas.
9. Cultivate odd hobbies. Raise orchids. Race yaks.
10. Work with odd partners.
11. Ask dumb questions. How come computer commands all come from keyboards? Somebody asked that one first; hence, the mouse.
12. Empower. The more folks feel theyre running their own show, the more at-bats, etc.
13. Train without limits. Pick up the tab for training unrelated to workkeep everyone engaged, period.
14. Dont back away from passion. Dispassionate innovator is an oxymoron.
15. Pursue failure. Failure is successs only launching pad. (The bigger the goof, the better!)
16. Take anti-NIH pills. Dont let not invented here keep you from ripping off nifty ideas.
17. Constantly reorganize. Mix, match, try different combinations to shake things up.
18. Listen to everyone. Ideas come from anywhere.
19. Dont listen to anyone. Trust your inner ear.
20. Get fired. If youre not pushing hard enough to get fired, youre not pushing hard enough. (More than once is okay.)
21. Nurture intuition. If you can find an interesting market idea that came from a rational plan, I’ll eat all my hats. (I have quite a collection.)
22. Dont hang out with all the rest. Forget the same tired trade association meetings, talking with the same tired people about the same tired things.
23. Decentralize. At-bats are proportional to the amount of decentralization.
24. Decentralize again.
25. Smash all functional barriers. Unfettered contact among people from different disciplines is magic.
26. Destroy hierarchies.
27. Open the books. Make everyone a businessperson, with access to all the financials.
28. Start an information deluge. The more real-time, unedited information people close to the action have, the more that neat stuff happens.
29. Take sabbaticals.
30. Repot yourself every 10 years. (This was the advice of former Stanford Business School dean Arjay Miller meaning change careers each decade.)
31. Spend 50 percent of your time with outsiders. Distributors and vendors will give you more ideas in five minutes than another five-hour committee meeting.
32. Spend 50 percent of your outsider time with wacko outsiders.
33. Pursue alternative rhythms. Spend a year on a farm, six months working in a factory or burger shop.
34. Spread confusion in your wake. Keep people off balance, dont let the ruts get deeper than they already are.
35. Disorganize. Bureaucracy takes care of itself. The boss should be chief dis-organizer, Quad/Graphics CEO Harry Quadracci told us.
36. Dis-equilibrate … Create instability, even chaos. Good advice to real leaders from Professor Warren Bennis.
37. Stir curiosity. Igniting youthful, dormant curiosity in followers is the lead dogs top task, according to Sony chairman Akio Morita.
38. Start a Corporate Traitors Hall of Fame. Renegades are not enough. You need people who despise what you stand for.
39. Give out Culture Scud Awards. Your best friend is the person who attacks your corporate culture head-on. Wish her well.
40. Vary your pattern. Eat a different breakfast cereal. Take a different route to work.
41. Take off your coat.
42. Take off your tie.
43. Roll up your sleeves.
44. Take off your shoes.
45. Get out of your office. Tell me, honestly, the last time something inspiring or clever happened at that big table in your office?!
46. Get rid of your office.
47. Spend a workday each week at home.
48. Nurture peripheral vision. The interesting stuff usually is going on beyond the margins of the professionals ever-narrowing line of sight.
49. Dont help. Let the people who work for you slip, trip, falland grow and learn on their own.
50. Avoid moderation in all things. Anything worth doing is worth doing to excess, according to Edwin Land, Polaroids founder.

Now write down the opposite of each of the 50. Which set comes closer to your profile?*

In short, loosen up!

Notice that a lot of the points contradict each other? In many ways, this list does reflect things I haven’t been doing – so now I’m off to court lady luck 🙂

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Ever worked with a vendor/advertising agency or outsourced a share of your work to another company? For people new to doing this or experienced in doing this, here’s a list of 5 things you should do to ensure you get the best service, get loyalty and nurture a high level of trust in your relationship.

  1. Clarity is Paramount
    Do you know your organization’s goals for the year? Your budgets? Do you have a plan for what you want to achieve in the coming quarter? If you don’t have the answers to these questions, you need to get them ASAP! If you do know the answers, the most important question here is: Does your agency know all this too? If they don’t have the big picture, if they don’t get the answers to their questions and if they see you as a client who needs to be constantly prodded for information and clarity, how can they serve you with the kind of efficiency and professionalism you expect? They’ll respect you and your organization more if you confide and explain things to them in the most verbose possible way.

    Don’t have a close relationship with your agency? Do you treat them as just suppliers of a commodity? Then you need to do one of two things: either take them into confidence and share all the information you have with them, or fire them and hire someone you can trust. The middle ground here is just too inefficient.

  2. Plan in Advance
    Always on the edge when it comes to demanding tight deadlines for deliverables? That’s probably why the output from your agency is low quality – they haven’t had the time to digest the situation and come up with better ideas. Remember, you are not the only client they have – everyone else is also demanding their time with unreasonable deadlines and its usually a case of too many things to do for too few people. Planning the bulk of your activities in advance helps everyone – forces you to make rational plans of what you want to achieve and why in the short term, and notifies your agency of the kind of work they can expect from you in the coming months so they can plan their resource allocation. At the end of the year, your plans will have changed significantly, but at least your agency will not have been completely clueless about what you wanted to achieve.
  3. Giving a good brief is an art form
    Well ok maybe it’s not exactly “art” but you get my drift; you need to spend a lot of time on your briefs, explaining everything from the core reasons why you want something done to what you aim to achieve from it. The more you explain, your agency gets a better idea of what to do and what will help the most. Of course, there are some that argue that “My agency knows our organization so well, only a one line brief is enough”. Well, in my opinion, even if an agency knows your organization well, you still need to give them a slightly verbose brief. It need not have a huge amount of detail, but simple objectives and reasons need to be there. Also, if you have any preferences for colors, logo sizes, shapes, database structure, code style or typography, please leave them out of your brief – leave that stuff to the agency, which is what my next point talks about.
  4. Why keep a Dog and Bark Yourself?
    Ogilvy’s famous words say it all: You’re hiring your agency/vendor to do something that’s not your organizations core competence, they are probably the ones who’ve given a lot more thought to your communication/marketing activities, so why can’t you trust their judgement? Sure, theres a fair amount of learning that has to happen if you’ve engaged a new agency or are at a very young stage in your relationship – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to direct everything they do. Making decisions through a “committee” is another thing that will induce high blood pressure for your agency’s people. The more opinions they get on their work, the harder it is to maintain the original intended integrity of the message. I’ve seen several instances where agencies have distanced themselves from work they’ve done because the final output was completely different from the original idea. (bigger logo! change the typeface! change headline! change visual! um.. ok, now I’m happy – lets see what the sales team have to say.) You’ll have agencies dumping your account the moment this seems to happen too often – however much money you’re paying them. If you want so much control, why hire an agency? You might as well do it yourself.
  5. Nurture the relationship
    If you are satisfied with the approach your agency takes in their work and if they seem like the right kind of people you want to work with, don’t just show your appreciation by praising them. Give them more work. After all, this is a business, and if their work is satisfactory and you’re compfortable with them, what’s preventing you from growing the relationship too? They have people, just like your organization does. they probably have targets, just like your organization’s peolple do – The best way you can show your appreciation for good work is to give them more work, trust them more and start giving them access to various people in your organization so that they can know your company better. If all goes well, this can only help increase the quality of the work delivered to you, as people who respect you will always do their best for you. Also, remember another of David Ogilvy’s famous lines: Pay Peanuts and you’ll get monkeys. Be open to expanding the scope of your relationship slowly, and demanding higher quality work and interaction for it.

At the end of the day, you need to achieve your organization’s objectives in some way – working with an agency or a vendor usually means a long term committment to the relationship – and like all relationships, you need to invest time and patience to make it a happy one.

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I’ve been on both sides of the client-agency relationship, and in a 2 part series I’m going to highlight the pain points of both clients and agencies, faced by both me and some of the people I know. In this first part, I’ve put down some basic client servicing expectations people have from their agencies.

How to NOT infuriate your clients

  1. Deliver on Time
    Sound simple, doesn’t it? But in reality it is just an alien concept for most agencies. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to run around to get things done because my agencies have not delivered as promised. And it’s not just me – everybody I know who works as a client in a client-agency elationship, from PR and event managers to good old marketing managers, have horror stories of how the only consistent thing their agencies manage to do is deliver late. Agencies that deliver on time not only get respect, they also get more business. That’s simple too.
  2. Think before you execute
    I’ve come to believe that expecting this from agencies in Bangalore is asking for too much. After all, is it rocket science to do good work? How can you deliver collateral with headlines that a 10 year old child can write? Or design collateral that looks like it’s for a client in another non-related industry? When you’re given a brief or a requirement, please stop and think. Before you roll your sleeves up and dive into generating the communication collateral, take 10 minutes off to contemplate the big picture. If you’re a designer or visualizer, this is extremely important as your work will be questioned and debated more if there’s no apparent thought process behind it. Give it some thought, express that thought process while presenting the collateral, and your efforts will show that you’ve understood what your client wants to communicate.
  3. Quality Control is not “nice to have”, it’s “need to have”!
    You know you’re in trouble here if your client gets back to you with proofing corrections of typos and tells you that collateral with your client’s logo (which you created!) is in the wrong colors. Whether it’s a first draft or a final deliverable for approval, please proof read it and check for design inconsistencies. Alignment of objects, print ready files (CMYK images, cut marks) are the norm, not something your client should ask you to do. The last thing you need for your credibility is for your client to point out spelling mistakes in a headline. (Which, unfortunately, I’ve had to do in the past)
  4. Listen, Ask Questions
    Listen to what your client’s pain points are, and don’t just draw up tactical answers. If you listen well, you can glean what your client really wants you to do. If you don’t ask questions, you won’t know everything you need to know about an assignment. As David Ogilvy once said “I prefer the discipline of knowledge to the chaos of ignorance”. Find out more about your client’s business, understand the markets they are in, ask for more information about deliverables and your client’s intentions, question your client’s decisions and come up with better ideas that promise better results. If you don’t ask questions and just follow instructions blindly, then you’d rather work at a DTP Operator’s shop and not be surprised why your client wants so many changes in the work you’ve delivered.
  5. Integrity first, your client’s business second, you last
    Sounds preachy? Well it is – because nobody seems to like that “Integrity” word and agencies and suppliers usually interchange the last two bits. Evaluate if what you’re doing is extortionate, or detrimental to your client’s business. It’s not always apparent, but even simple direct mailers with the wrong message could be a disaster for your client’s brand equity. If you’re on a retainer, sitting back and expecting your client to call the shots and give direction while you absorb the monthly fee is not only unethical, it’s also not going to help you be motivated to do good work.

Doing all this will mean only two things: You earn respect and trust, which in turn means more business and more money. It really is this simple – do a good, professional job and that itself will make you and your agency stand out from the crowd.

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Coming from an agency and having contributed to creating a few TV commercials in the past, I thought I’d share my two cents on this topic because of a discussion at work:

  • One thing I’ve found incomprehensible amongst both agencies and clients is that people read too much into advertisements.
    1. The idea of mass media advertising is to get attention – get brand recognition. There is no other ulterior motive. Whether you like the Sprite or Appy or advertisement or not, the fact that you remember it, remember the brand and recognize the brand when you go shopping means that the ad’s purpose has been achieved and the advertisers, agencies and media companies have done their job.
    2. Advertisers do this in multiple ways, from boring off-the-track advertisements to humourous, entertaining ads. The idea is to gain mindshare – reading into how they do it, whether a crazy stunt or stupid looking character or sarcastic humor, is pointless because you’re not supposed to. At least, the people who create these ads don’t think you’re supposed to – they just want your attention for 30 seconds, and hope and pray that attention translates into sales indirectly.
  • Communication is one of the most subjective fields to work in, and therefore one of the most challenging…
    1. We don’t know the process by which these ads get on our TV screens – it could have been a collection of 15 storyboards with 15 different concepts, and out of all of them 3 might have been brilliant, but because the CEO/Marketing manager has ego issues or doesn’t understand them, he/she chooses the most simple, stark storyboard of the lot. Or because the sales guy thinks this idea is better than that, it gets chosen even though it’s the wrong message.
    2. Budgets: you’d be amazed to see some really amazing ideas and concepts shot down because clients don’t want to spend 10 lakhs creating a great ad, but will have no qualms about spending 2 crores on media spends on multiple channels for a crappy ad.
    3. At the end of the day, it’s all about perception – I see those ads and see an attempt to communicate with me through humour – some of it works, and some of it doesn’t because I’m either not their target audience or just don’t appreciate their communication style. But if I remember a crappy ad, and recognize the brand, then regardless of whether I like the ad or not, I’ll name the brand in a brand perception survey. And i might even buy it while shopping because I’ve heard of it and want to try it out. After all, have you ever not bought a product only because it has a crappy ad campaign?
  • As someone sensitive to advertising, I agree with the general view of people in the industry that Indian ads these days have better production values and are slicker looking. But ideas and “concepts” wise we’re wayyyyyy behind the west in terms of sophistication and subtlety.

    But while agencies compain and groan about clients choosing run-of-the-mill storyboards, they also need to realise that the majority of the Indian audience hasn’t gotten any more sophisticated than they were ten years ago. With 80% of the Indian population still in rural and semi-urban areas, only a select few have the education background, IQ levels and exposure to good communication that will enable them to grasp a sophisticated metaphor or a subtle visual connection.

    The bad news? This isn’t going to change anytime soon – the process of sensitizing the masses to great communicaiton is a long drawn one.

    The good news? With education levels rising, increased competition in the Indian markets and globalization exposing India’s adults and children to international communication, the overall process will speed up. Hopefully.

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Over the past 20 years, the story of the Indian IT industry and their success has been quite phenomenal – the IT big boys got a lot of publicity and international recognition for doing the donkey-work outsourced here pretty well. They've all been riding this wave and haven't really needed to spend a lot on marketing and high visibility in the past. But it looks like all this is going to change:

The Economic Times reports that the Indian IT big guys want to take on their western counterparts – IBM, Accenture and others who get the cream of the contracts.

Also the brand recall at the CXO level of Indian IT companies is not at the same level as with global corporations like HP, Microsoft, Accenture, EDS, Cisco, Dell and others. Though CXOs are aware of India as a hot destination for offshoring IT tasks, they aren't able to easily recall names of top vendors including HCL Technologies, Satyam Computer Systems, Infosys, Wipro, Patni and others. This is what IT majors want to change now. So what is Infosys doing to get eye balls. The company's global marketing head Srinivas Uppaluri told ET that as routine campaigns may not help, Infosys is targeting a focused group of 100,000. We have to do community building and events to get a better mind share among CXOs, he said.

According to Global Services, "Branding" has now suddenly become quite important (on a different scale) to Wipro, Infosys, TCS and Satyam. So not only should we expect much bigger marketing budgets and more diverse media plans (Mindtree is projected to spend Rs. 5 Crores this year), we will also see the side effects of these campaigns on brand India; For better or worse? Only time will tell.

Is outsourcing finally getting commoditized? In that case, of course, price and brand are the only two variables that matter. Indian companies have so far played the price card, which, of course, has a lower limit. So now, they feel, it is time to do something about the brand.

My only concern is that if they start getting more publicly visible, then they'll also have to pull up their socks in the 'incompetence' and 'inefficient' departments. Too many people who don't have the experience, intelligence or capabilities to do what they're supposed to do already litter these companies like ticks on a dog. But other than that, this could only mean good things for the Indian IT industry – for by spending oodles of moolah on marketing, and brand building, the big boys will also indirectly help the other small and medium sized companies here who accept outsourced development work.

In other unrelated news, it seems that the "Database of Indian IT Employees" is going to happen after all. I recently wrote about a concern I had about a move by NASSCOM and the Indian IT industry to register the country's employees in a biometric database, accessible to companies worldwide. Well it looks like it's going to happen, and the employees in the IT industry are not going to have a say in forming the privacy policy.

… The Indian IT industry has declared that all employees will have to register on its biometric database, so it can assure its Western clients that their customers' personal data will be protected….
NASSCOM vice president Sunil Mehta said: "The SRO would subscribe that all members would have all their employees registered in the registry. Mehta said the rules governing the use of employee data had been drawn up in a joint effort by NASSCOM, NSDL and industry. He said it was likely the guidelines would not be published. Employees' considerations had been taken into account by consulting lawyers, he said. "They don't have a union, but we did focus group discussions to attain their views," Mehta added.

I think now is a good time for people working in the IT and ITES sectors in India to form a union. It's amazing that over 950,000 people in India seemingly don't give a damn about their personal information.

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