Response to Questions Posed by Author of 'What Sticks'

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MARC BROWNSTEIN: I received a note from Greg Stuart, CEO, of the Interactive Advertising Bureau and co-author of the new book, What Sticks: Why Most Advertising Fails and How to Guarantee Yours Succeeds.

He posed a few questions that continue to haunt agencies and advertisers alike:

"How do you know for sure the ad campaign you developed will work?" "How do you know if or what parts of it fail?" "What will we do about it if it does?" Each of these are critical questions that we've found most marketers don't really ask themselves. It begs my question to you, WHY?

No surprise that a guy from the interactive world is raising such questions. The internet may be the most nimble, measurable, and accountable advertising medium in our industry, surpassing direct mail. Today, clients demand accountability. And it's why 2 out of every 3 new business leads that come into our agency are interactive in scope.

So, let get back to Greg's first question ("How do you know for sure the ad campaign you developed will work? ). Truth is, most campaigns have a lot of work poured into them (research, planning, creative development, media, execution, etc.), but few have any real metrics around them. At Brownstein Group, we put a new process into place at the outset of every new client relationship, and new campaign for existing clients, where we ask, "What is success?" Then we define it, and set benchmarks and metrics, so we can measure the results, and report them.

Sounds easy? Far from it.

Some clients will want to hold agencies accountable for, say, sales. But there are many factors out of the control of agencies, such as an incompetent sales management team at the client. Good campaigns can deliver qualified leads, but if clients can't close them, who's to blame? Lack of access to client's financial/sales data is another factor that may affect agencies. So, the point is, if agencies are going to be accountable, they have to have access to that data, and control over certain elements of what is being measured. Those are sticky discussions with clients.

Agencies can test ideas before they run, too. Though that's not foolproof. Consider the MasterCard "priceless" campaign which tested dead last among several spec campaigns. The only reason it saw the light of day was because the marketing director had the courage of his convictions, and approved it.

Now let's consider the second question ("How do you know if or what parts of it fail?"). With more targeted and measurable disciplines like interactive and direct mail, marketers can more easily analyze what works, and what doesn't. For example, if you see that few visitors are clicking on a certain part of a web site, or banner ads, then you can change and adjust on the fly. With mediums like TV, print, & outdoor, it's less exact. The way I see it, the offline advertising mediums remain important branding vehicles, that should drive people to a web site. Offline should be measured for awareness (do a pre-and-post benchmark study), and for the number of hits delivered to a site.

Measurement and accountability comes down to what the objectives of the campaign are ("What will we do about it if it does?"). If qualified leads are the primary goal, then a campaign should be pulled if it doesn't do its job. If, on the other hand, a client wants his brand to simply get on consumers' radar screens, then the marketing campaign must be given time to work. If, after a mutually agreed upon period of time, the campaign still has not achieved its goal, then it must be re-evaluated.

Clients and agencies are doing a much better job of holding each other accountable for results than ever before. And incentive-based compensation is becoming the norm, including penalties for non-performance.

Which brings me to Greg's final question ( It begs my question to you, WHY?). Reality is that more and more marketers ARE asking why.

Curious to know what those of you who are reading this have experienced in your agencies.
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