Rule No. 1: Engage, Engage, Engage

Regardless of His Culture, You Must First Truly Understand the Consumer

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Eduardo Caballero, one of the founders of the industry segment in which I have made my career, taught me a long time ago that "no client pays an agency to simply reach people." Clients pay agencies for persuasion, acquisition and transactions. Transactions require engagement.

Our industry speaks of engagement today as though it were a new thing in advertising. I think the caveman who conceived "cooked over a flame" needed to engage other cavemen in order to sell them his concept. I also believe that when David Ogilvy placed a patch over the eye of the Hathaway Man he was trying to generate engagement for the purpose of selling more shirts. Every 30-second TV spot ever produced has aspired to generate engagement.

Engagement is not a new thing, but today the target audience's busy lifestyle, compact attention span and new-found control over a vastly fragmented media landscape have made it more challenging than ever before.

Brands must ensure they are alive and kicking in the culture and fabric of consumers' demanding, multi-channel lifestyles. Consumers' lifestyle equations are based on their individual identity, values and aspirations. Lifestyle determines where people go for information, entertainment, and leisure, what they do, how they do it, and what they consume. Only when a brand is empowered with robust consumer insights can it leverage the actionable ones towards delivering the right content in the right context with the right amount of contact.

Easier said than done in today's world. Big ideas based on universal human truths must be delivered in ways that optimize communication value when they meet their audience. Global brand propositions need to balance with local realities. Even within U.S. markets, many consumers live bicultural lifestyles.

As advertising professionals what we most owe brands is the deepest possible knowledge of their target's beliefs and behaviors down in the trenches -- where the consumer lives and shops. Regardless of whether you are a client or an agency person, in account planning, account management, media, creative, interactive, experiential, or direct, it's your responsibility to ensure that the brand has enlisted the essential resources and expertise to truly generate consumer engagement.

Are you giving your brand the best possible chance to be alive and kicking in the cultural context and fabric of the consumer's everyday life? Does your brand just reach people?

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Tony Ruiz is partner-chief strategy officer at The Vidal Partnership.
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