During the go-go advertising craze in 1999 and early 2000—driven largely by dot-coms looking to drive up their IPO stock prices—marketers spent with an almost reckless abandon. Many neglected their core audience in favor of wide-appeal TV campaigns that would capture interest on Wall Street, while others quickly wore out the novelty of Web banner ads and saw the return on their Internet investments plummet.
Now, in the slow economy, where every ad dollar must be justified, marketers are going back to the principles on which all effective ad campaigns are built.
1. Be absolutely clear about your campaign's objective. Everything during the development of the campaign, from positioning strategy to media placement, should be designed to meet that objective.
"Internally, as a client, you need to be real sure about exactly what you want to do, then you need to evangelize the hell out of it," said Chris McGarry, director of worldwide brand management at Seagate Technology Inc.
When developing an integrated campaign for its Barracuda ATA III disk drive, Seagate brought together its product marketing, channel marketing and branding teams to agree on positioning even before the agencies got involved.
"If the client isn't sure of what he wants to say, the agencies aren't going to say it right," McGarry said.
2. Communicate openly about everything with your agency. In working with outsourced experts, communicate regularly on everything from brand positioning to copy used in creative development. If multiple agencies are involved, the advertiser should have a lead contact person to handle all communication.
"It's got to start with straight talk with the agency," said Lou D'Ambrosio, VP-worldwide marketing, IBM Software Group.
"It's important to leverage the creative juices of the agency with the business discipline of the advertiser, and together drive those synergies to establish a world-class campaign," he said.
3. Identify the core influencers. When IBM Corp. was developing its "Codernaut" software campaign, it did extensive research with its agency OgilvyOne to identify the core influences for middleware software. After it learned that these users spend a great deal of time online, IBM doubled its ad budget for Web spending.
4. Use integrated media when possible. An integrated approach usually yields higher results than a single medium, such as TV, print, direct mail, e-mail or online, particularly if the campaign has multiple objectives.
5. Test the product positioning and creative concept with the target audience. Use focus groups, teleconferencing, online research and other market research.
When Emerson Electric Co.'s Micro Motion Inc. launched its new R-Series flowmeter, which was the introduction of its first low-cost measuring device, it conducted focus groups with its audience of manufacturing equipment buyers to make sure the positioning was well-received.
"To answer the question, 'How will we build awareness quickly?' we went straight to the people we were going to sell to," said Kathy Bee, manager of global marketing communications at Micro Motion.
6. Use creative that will stand out with relevant messages. Balance intrusion with information. This is especially important for hard-to-reach target audiences.
When developing the online ads for Seagate's Barracuda ATA III campaign, Lot21 Interactive Advertising Group Inc. used larger pop-up ads that contained a lot of product information, because the value-added reseller audience tends to rerespond less to online ads, said Mark Stephens, director of media services at Lot21.
7. Follow up on direct campaigns. It's vital to contact the recipient through telemarketing, sales calls and other sales efforts. The more contact with the target, the better, as long as there is permission given, such as a response to a direct mail or e-mail.
For the direct mail component of its R-Series campaign, which was supported by print, Micro Motion established three points of contact with prospects, including the targeted direct mailing, a follow-up telemarketing call to those who responded, then a sales call if the lead was "hot." With these efforts, it achieved a 1,477% return on investment.
8. Build in metrics to measure the results. If it's a branding campaign, determine the timeline and measurement system to gauge movement in perceptions and attitudes about the brand and how that may lead to more sales. If it's a direct response campaign, build in a link to follow, such as leads generated from direct mail or traffic driven to a unique URL from a print campaign.
IBM has a monthly monitoring cycle for all of its campaigns, during which time its market intelligence team contacts tens of thousands of prospects about the effectiveness of its advertising.
9. Don't be afraid to make changes midstream. This includes pulling ads that are offensive to the audience, and changing copy and creative when possible.
Particularly for online executions, offers can be adjusted to take advantage of changing variables such as pricing or inventory levels.
10. Take what you learn from one campaign and build on it. Just because one campaign worked for a specific objective does not mean it will work the next time around. Seagate learned that its VAR audience responded well to the larger online ad units, driving six to seven times the average traffic to its reseller's site. So, in a campaign launched this month for its Barracuda 180 drive, Seagate is building on its online ads developed by Lot21, including an online product demo in a pop-up ad.
The bottom line of all this? Advertising is a constantly moving target, and campaigns need to reflect that. There's nothing wrong with trying new techniques, but to forget the fundamentals is just plain foolish.