Posts tagged “quality

The World on Your Doorstep

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Larry A. Meltzer, Agency Principal

Recently I interviewed a new grad from one of the public universities in the Dallas area. Of particular interest, this individual told me that the first comm class of every morning started with a current events quiz. The purpose of this exercise is to prompt students to read a physical newspaper every morning, since that’s probably the best way to gain a broad overview of what’s happening in the world – and to score well on the morning quiz!

Some might say this exercise is a relic of times gone by, especially in light of research indicating that half of Americans get their news from Facebook and 10% of Americans think Facebook is actually a news outlet. Anything that gets students – and adults – reading and learning about issues in the world around them is a good thing, but I wonder what we’re losing in terms of knowledge with the decline of print media.

There are advantages to online news consumption, of course:

  • There’s the immediacy factor. When news happens, boom, it’s right there in multimedia, so we read, see and hear about it, not only from news sources, but from those in our social networks.
  • The presentation of news online also offers outlets the ability to incorporate interactive graphics to help explain the story in a way that amplifies – or even replaces – the narrative.
  • There’s the general notion of a news encounter. We’re online, scrolling through our Facebook feeds, and interspersed with a photo of a friend’s lunch are news items that we might not otherwise have scanned.
  • There’s the consumption of news itself. With so few Americans subscribing to news – either in print or online – the availability of information provides access to news that individuals otherwise might not seek out.
  • And of course there’s an environmental benefit, with less paper being used to produce a print product with an extremely short life span.

But what do we lose with the move away from print?

  • We lose the pass-by effect that comes with reading a physical newspaper. We may not read every article, but by flipping through the pages, we’re taking in all the headlines as we evaluate what we want to know more about. So even without reading a story, we’re gaining topline knowledge of key issues or items considered important or relevant enough to put in print.
  • We also lose a depth of information. With all the events occurring around the world, we shortchange ourselves by not delving deep enough into the facts, implications and analyses. The convenience of a snapshot in our Facebook feeds can never compensate for that level of detail.
  • Encountering news – a benefit of online news consumption – also is not the same as following news. Stories and events often play themselves over time, revealing new layers and nuances that help us form opinions.
  • And finally, as the success metrics for media have become more focused on eyeballs and click-throughs, media are presenting stories online with which consumers have the propensity to engage. Sometimes, what consumers want to read, and what they should read, are vastly different.

Knowledge is cumulative. It builds over time through repeated exposure to facts and opinions, and we build our understanding through context and various points of view. A well-written article – whether in print or online – teaches you something. It might present something familiar from an unfamiliar angle.

At the end of the day, I’m not giving up my newspapers, although after the morning read, I’m constantly online, consuming news from these same outlets in their digital counterparts. News outlets deliver the world on your doorstep, so open the door and start reading!


Let It Rain on My Parade

Larry A. Meltzer, Agency Principal

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Many marketers will say that digital is the new traditional.

There’s no arguing with the ability to deploy dollars in a more targeted way through digital channels, but some creative ideas can only come to life – and achieve maximum effectiveness – in the physical world.  The “tequila cloud” promoting travel to Mexico is one of those ideas that demonstrates the value of marketing in the physical world.

The goal of this German-based campaign was to promote travel to Mexico as a vacation destination. As part of a special exhibit in Berlin during the rainiest month of the year, whenever it rained in the city – which the ad agency said was frequently during the time of the exhibit – the tequila cloud also produced “rain” in the form of tequila raindrops. You can read more about how this was achieved here.

Could this same concept be produced in a digital environment? Sure, but the impact of watching a tequila cloud on a smartphone or small screen would likely have resulted in a ho-hum response, rather than an experience that prompts word-of-mouth pass-along. There is also some wisdom for marketers that rained from the tequila cloud. To wit, consider these three takeaways:

  • Experiences connect consumers to a brand. When you execute an idea that can stop people in their tracks, you really have an opportunity to connect a consumer to the brand. This type of experience defines and strengthens a brand in a way that online engagement can’t, because it has staying power in the real world.
  • Physical marketing lets you gauge emotions and reactions in real-time. While much of marketing is rooted in research and metrics, gut instinct based on experience still plays a role. When you can watch and gauge consumer reaction on the spot, you can dial up or down certain aspects to take advantage of consumer response.
  • Strong engagement gives you permission to grow a program. When you can see that consumers are engaged with your brand in the physical world, why not expand the concept further into the physical world, and into the digital world as well? This is where the blurring of traditional and digital proves that synergies do exist, and expansion of an engaging program delivers a longer shelf life and greater exposure.

When you’re brainstorming ideas for your next campaign, your head may be in the clouds, but sometimes it makes sense to have a campaign that’s rooted in the physical world.


All Agencies, Big and Small

Larry A. Meltzer, Agency Principal

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It’s the time of year when the agency holding companies officially put the previous financial year to bed, and the industry media compile their annual agency rankings. As a long-time veteran of the agency business, what strikes me every year is the way the descriptions of agencies have changed over the years – and this is true for both large and small agencies.

A scroll through the rankings – or indeed, an agency’s website – reveals prominent mentions of size (in terms of billings) and awards, as if size and awards are the best indicator of quality or fit for a client. What happened to pride of work? I suspect much of this is driven by the holding company model – holding companies, after all, are about maximizing the value of their portfolio of companies.

My own career has taken me through the doorways and hallways of agencies of all sizes, from largest-in-the-world and on down to the boutique agency that I now lead. If I had to distill down what I’ve learned about the pros and cons of big and small, I’d point to these five truths:

  • There’s a place for big, and there’s a sweet spot for small.  Big agencies do a great job with big clients. They’re structured to serve the broad needs of the multinationals that aren’t particularly price sensitive. But as the big agencies have grown bigger, and their cost structures size them out of certain assignments, there has been a clearer bifurcation of the market, delineating a real sweet spot for small agencies – not just in terms of company size or budget, but in terms of the type of senior-level talent and attention that really lives the client’s business in a way that a big agency can’t match.
  • To get to the soul of an agency, ask them to describe it.  Big agencies are proud of their size, and that tends to be the fallback description, along with awards. But most clients with whom I’ve worked over the years are more interested in what we’ve done for them, rather than the accolades we’ve received or the billings we’ve racked up. Small agencies, however, because they can’t fall back on size, tend to describe the work they do, and the results they’ve delivered for clients.
  • Big agencies are like accounting firms; small agencies are like investment firms. Every business need to generate a certain return to exist, but the big agencies for which I’ve worked have been like accounting firms, driven by the numbers rather than by delivering good work. Small agencies, on the other hand, are like investment firms, with the investment in this case being the clients and the people. Since there’s more at stake in a client relationship for a small agency, they tend to over-index on client service and the focus on results.
  • Big agencies give you access to talent; small agencies give you a talented team. True, big agencies have a deeper bench of talent across the network, which, of course, comes with a cost. Clients can tap into and out of this talent based on need. Small agencies, on the other hand, provide access to a talented team on a full-time basis. There can be a greater personal and professional integration between agency and client teams, with both focused on delivering great results.
  • Big agencies will sell you what they have; small agencies will sell you what you need. It stands to reason: If you have a lemonade stand, you’ll sell lemonade. In the same way, big agency employees are trained to sell what the agency offers, sometimes trying to fit the proverbial square peg in the round hole. They want to keep the revenue within their four walls. Small agencies, however, typically take a best-of-breed approach, and assemble the resources appropriate to the client need, agnostic of the source.

It’s a big world filled with big and small agencies and big and small clients. At the end of the day, an agency is best judged not by its size, but by the size of its ideas and the size of the results it can deliver for clients.


A Few Words to End the Week

Larry A. Meltzer, Agency Principal

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Looking back as another week comes to a close, a few things seemed to count more than others.

  • Quality counts. It’s not just the fake news that I’m worried about – it’s the real news! As one of the last proponents of the Oxford comma (thank you Miss O’Hara from 7th grade, who looms over me when I succumb to a less formal writing style), I can’t help wonder what is lost with the media’s rush to publish news stories, commentary, and social chatter that are laden with typos, missing words, bad grammar, and just overall poor editing. Yes, I recognize that the dynamics of information gathering and sharing have changed, but there’s something to be said for accuracy, care, and general pride in a job well done. The information may be gone in a blur after we’ve read it, but the dent on credibility is bound to linger.
  • Content counts. As the flood of resumes came into our Careers in-box in response to a recruiting ad, I’ve noticed that the visual quality of resumes changes each time we recruit. New professionals are leading the way in presenting their credentials through formats that have become much more engaging and visually appealing, with some interesting use of graphics. But graphics aren’t a substitute for content. A word of caution for new pros: Start with the content and the accomplishments, and then build the graphics around it. Graphics should play a supporting role to the star power.
  • It’s the thought that counts. And I suppose that’s the heart of the issue, whether it’s quality or content – our space to think is shrinking. The faster the work comes at us, the more we feel the need to respond before taking the time to think. In the space of the past week, we witnessed two high-profile issues compounded by too-fast action (or distraction): The wrong Oscar envelope, and the Uber CEO who quickly got into an argument … with an Uber driver. Is building “think time” into our daily routines the answer to some of these issues?

It’s something to think about. Until next week…


The Wisdom on the Street

Larry Meltzer, Agency Principal/Creative Director of MM2 Public Relations

I can’t help wondering if a possible solution to stop the decline of newspapers has been under our feet all this time.

Consider this microcosm of the newspaper world.  Every morning, residents on my street are greeted with colored plastic bags, each holding a different newspaper:  white for the major daily, blue for the New York Times, pink for the Wall Street Journal, and – once a week – clear for the weekly community paper.

The white bag used to rule, sitting on the sidewalk in front of nearly every house.  Today, white, blue and pink bags are scattered around with no real majority, but the clear bag – fully paid subscriptions only, no comps – is a uniform sight up and down the street, week after week.

My informal focus group of neighbors reveals why:  People want the news that affects them – school happenings, new retailers, town issues and the like.  They’re perfectly happy to get the national and world news on the fly, wherever they find it, whether in print, broadcast or online.

Maybe those colored plastic bags need to take a look at each other and think about how to take back their turf, on the sidewalk and on the newsstands, so to speak.  Is the answer in the European model, where a few national newspapers prosper happily alongside local dailies that are truly local?

After all, news is more relevant when it’s more personal, which is why those hyper-local web sites seem to be attracting eyeballs.  Perhaps the major dailies should consider doing what they’re staffed to do best – becoming the go-to source for everything local – while leaving the world reporting to the national papers staffed to do that best.