Clients engage advertising agencies to make a marked difference in their business. They'll seek to increase brand awareness, sell products or services, encourage donations or support for a cause, or promote an event. Whether your client articulates it or not, there will be an expectation of success behind every discussion and every project commission. The question then becomes, what exactly is your client expecting advertising to do for their business, and is that expectation realistic?
Let's consider the marketing mix: product, price, promotion, packaging, place, positioning, and people. Advertising agencies may have some influence on all these factors at some time or other, but the main areas where an agency has input are ‘promotion’ and ‘positioning’ (and possibly ‘packaging’ if your agency gets involved in packaging design).
Promotion refers to all the ways your client will tell their customers about their product or service, and how they will market to them. Positioning refers to how the product or service is positioned in the minds and hearts of their customers; and how people think and talk about their company, brand, products, etc.
If you notice, there are five other areas that are outside the remit of the typical advertising agency.
It is a reality that clients will, on occasion, look to their agency (be it advertising, design, experiential, media or PR) for a wand to wave over their business problems in the hope that they will all magically go away. No matter how good an agency's campaign may be, there are too many other variables in the marketing mix to be able to promise, guarantee or even surmise an outcome.
Acme Agency's client is XYZ - a chain of quick-service burger restaurants. XYZ releases one or two new products every 8-12 weeks. Each release requires a through-the-line campaign strategy and at least 20 pieces of point of sale collateral. XYZ relies on each campaign to generate a pre-determined number of sales and achieve a pre-determined level of revenue (neither figure of which Acme Agency has a hand in setting).
Most campaigns return moderate-to-disappointing results, and so (as you would expect) XYZ questions the strategic thinking and execution of the campaigns. The Acme Agency account manager checks her team’s brief, research, planning, and creative and is satisfied that they have done the best job possible within the allocated campaign budget and retainer agreement.
Acme Agency also identifies a number of wider marketing and operational issues that could impact the success of each campaign:
The owner of XYZ pragmatically acknowledges that they have some internal issues that are not easy to solve, yet they continue to look to advertising as a proverbial magic wand that will achieve the desired sales figures.
This type of story is common within the advertising and communication industry.
The success of a campaign can also be affected by external forces that are outside of anyone's control, such as:
The most brilliant of campaigns can be ambushed by one of a multitude of factors that lie outside of your agency's control. Therefore you, your team and your client need to be very clear and realistic about expectations, deliverables and expected ROI (unless, of course, you do happen to have a magic wand in your back pocket).
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