Other creative directors agree that clients are expecting a higher level of creativity from their agencies.
“The trend over the last few years has been a more sophisticated approach to creativity on the b-to-b side,” said Mike Speck, partner-creative strategy and planning at Mobium Creative Group, Chicago. “The work needs to be at a higher level than what b-to-b agencies could get away with a few years ago. Today, emotions and relevance are the two keys to b-to-b creative.”
Mobium used this approach to develop a campaign for Time Warner Cable Business Class called “Pretty Ugly,” which won a Pro-Comm best in division award for brand/reputation management.
The campaign was aimed at small businesses and addressed the problem of businesses being sold prepackaged services with features they didn't need, said Margaret McIntyre, partner-creative strategy and planning at Mobium. “We wanted to show the negative side of competitors that sell you more than what you need,” she said.
So Mobium created an integrated campaign, using images of businesspeople with excess accessories, such as shoes and clothes that are several sizes too big. “You have to come up with criteria about what's most important [to the target audience] and creatively build concepts around that,” McIntyre said.
The Time Warner campaign included TV, print, online, outdoor, radio, direct and sales support material.
Agency execs say that while they're increasing their use of new media, guerrilla marketing and other tactics, print remains core to their marketing programs for b-to-b clients.
“We still use full-page print ads as the springboard to get to the main idea and the truth of the campaign; then we spiral out to other media, whether that's interactive media or guerrilla marketing,” said Phil Gayter, creative director at Nicholson Kovac, Kansas City, Mo.
Gayter said the fragmented media environment poses challenges for b-to-b advertisers. “B-to-b creative has changed because the choice of media has changed so dramatically,” he said. “You have to think beyond the traditional trade ad and how to reach the target audience in a myriad of ways. To deal with the changing landscape is the biggest challenge creatively for any agency.”
In creating print ads, the agency tries to break through the clutter by approaching the creative execution in new and unexpected ways, Gayter said. “One of the problems with b-to-b is that you tend to be in very siloed markets—for example, selling cranes. When you open a crane magazine, there is a proliferation of ads with cranes in them,” he said.
In developing a campaign for FMC Corp.'s Ranman fungicide, the agency created a print ad called “Dreaming,” which won a Pro-Comm best of division award in the full-color/full-page print ad category.
The ad shows a tomato “dreaming” of being in a fresh salad, with copy reading “Get a new mode of action to make its dream a reality.”
“The key is understanding your target audience and eking out the most important aspect of their needs,” Gayter said. “What is their pain? If you ask a farmer, and if you have a product to battle that, you use that pain to be the nugget of truth that makes the ad compelling to him.”
Nicholson Kovac also tries to be relevant and compelling in its e-newsletters. The agency won a Pro-Comm award of excellence for its “Advanced Control” newsletters created for FMC.
The newsletters are aimed at different audiences, including potato growers, corn growers and Midwest farmers. They contain seasonal growing news, product updates and field research on insecticide performance for various crops.
“There is a lot of information to impart, but you have to have something that is clean, clear and inviting,” Gayter said. The “Advanced Control” newsletters are laid out like a print magazine, with colorful graphics, charts, boxes and photos of crops. M