Letters, Feb. 9, 2009

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Tight media budgets create opportunity

Re: "Where to Find the Bright Spots in 2009" (AA, Jan. 12) Your article should have noted that now also happens to be a great time for many other categories. First quarter is the height of the direct-response seasonality curve, and this year we have the economy working in our favor. The buzzword in the latter half of 2008 was "stay-cation," and more people staying close to home means more people in front of the TV. A faltering economy means everyone tightens their belts, but response rates haven't suffered as much as you might guess. There are many businesses suffering and, in times like these, the marketing budget can be the first cut made. Lighter marketing budgets have meant open inventory on many stations, and savvy direct marketers know that this whole scenario can be a recipe for success, even when times are tough.
Rebecca L. Barr
Senior media director, U.S.
Northern Lights Direct Response

Marketers aren't connecting with African-Americans

RE: "Don't Bypass African-Americans" (AA, Feb. 2). African-Americans face the same dilemma we've always faced in America. The idea that used to permeate America was that we simply were not "worth it" when it came to our humanity. We've made immense progress in America, but perhaps the message has transformed into "our dollars are not worth it." I've worked at several agencies, have an M.B.A. in marketing and am currently in a leadership program at a Fortune 10 corporation, so I speak from experience.

Yankelovich produces first-rate studies, but the lack of more fervent research across the board continues to allow lethargic marketers to claim that this segment has assimilated to the point where there is no need for a unique dialogue between brand and customer. I've seen the inside of several Fortune 500, 200 and 100 corporations and can candidly say that many times the AA market is not considered at the decision-making table, and when we are, it's because there's the lone soldier who is purposefully reminding everyone that we have $1 trillion in buying power.

Typically what I've seen are marketing executives who truly don't have a connection to African-Americans at all, other than the occasional hip-hop song or urban colloquialism. We remain a mystery, and when you factor in budgetary constraints and nonexistent partnerships with African-American agencies or media, it's easy to understand why there is the claim to not "see" a valid opportunity.

Here are seven suggestions for those who want to ameliorate their marketing efforts: 1) Decide to change. Don't think about it. 2) Define and develop a process that identifies and measures "opportunity." 3) Design a framework that has tangible and intangible metrics (not just population growth). 4) Collaborate with various centers of excellence. 5) Ask what you do not know and let your partners dream with you/for you. 6) Prioritize initiatives and test everything, because the most valuable connections are the ones that are hardest to see. 7) Lastly, take action and get connected.

Noble L. Woods
M.B.A. Leadership Program associate
Charlotte, N.C.

Effies encourages media participation

I applaud Charlie Crowe (AA Q&A, Jan. 26) for recognizing the elevated role of media agencies in reaching consumers, especially how "brands are using media agencies to create services for consumers and looking at ways of engaging with consumers."

However, I disagree with the headline of the article, "Award Shows Miss Important Media Piece of the Puzzle." The Effies recognize that the best ideas can come from anywhere and are, more often than not, being driven by the media agency. We strongly encourage media agencies to enter the Effie Awards, and even though they are eligible to enter any category, we have created specialty categories such as "Media Idea" and "Brand Experience" to attract standout entries. That's also why we've made a major effort to incorporate great thinkers from media agencies on our board and at our judging events.

We've made great progress over the past few years but would welcome more entries straight from the media agency, since the bulk of our entries still come from the lead agency. This could be because lead agencies often have award show entries as part of a staffer's job description or because they are simply more accustomed to listing award shows on their bios and credentials.

Media agencies deserve more credit for their innovative thinking in reaching consumers, and the Effies, as well as many of our award-show competitors, are ready to reward them.

Mary Lee Keane
Effie Worldwide
New York

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