LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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As Stefano Hatfield points out ("The annual ad awards glut defies critics and here is why," Viewpoint, AA, June 9), award shows threaten to swamp the industry every spring. Most, he notes, recognize individual creative talent and historically have been a way for creatives to jumpstart or further their careers.

The Effies can hardly be included in that crowd. "Effies mean business" has been its mantra for years, and explains why, in this dismal economy, the 2003 Effie entries, which require detailed proof of effectiveness, increased a whopping 25%. Attendance at the gala was up and the number of senior executive round-two judges exceeded all previous levels, also by 25%.

Although Cannes entries are down 5%, according to Ad Age (AA, June 2), both Cannes and Effie are distinctly powerful drivers of business and recognition. We'll concede the glamour and sexy allure of Cannes, but not the business end. Moreover, the Effies honor campaigns that produced strong results, recognizing the agency and client team effort (not individuals), including both the creative and marketing/advertising talent.

While award shows may have proliferated to the point of glut, they at least recognize talent in an industry beset by overwork, under-appreciation and, often, under pay. One person's complaint about one more show is another person's triumph. For that, let's say applause, applause.

Eugene Dunkin

President-elect

Board of Directors

New York American Marketing Association

New York

The New York AMA is sponsor of the Effies. Mr. Dunkin is president of Godiva North America.

Sears ads are better, but they can't do it all

Sears, Roebuck & Co. may have finally hit on an advertising formula that will work with its latest shift to functional versus image-oriented messaging. But Bob Garfield ("Sears at peace being Sears, but it still fails to set itself apart," AdReview, AA, May 5) hits the nail on the head: Advertising alone will not drive success; it's Sears actually delivering what Sears promises that's going to lure shoppers back. Put another way, Sears must be able to deliver a new "brand-right experience" to capture the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers.

Its new advertising is getting sharper and clearer about its brand promise to consumers: value and variety delivered with ease in categories that are relevant to consumer needs. Now the challenge is to ensure that critical processes and frontline employees are focused on consistently and effectively delivering this proposition. Meeting this challenge will require Sears to drive excellence in three key areas.

* Sears must fine-tune its supply chain to ensure that desired products will be consistently in stock and available to customers. Few retailers have mastered the ability to consistently make a wide variety of products available, when and where needed. This will be critical to delivering upon the promise of variety and choice within the store.

* Sears must aggressively differentiate its offering-products, pricing, service, etc.-in core categories that are fundamental to success and where brand equity can be strengthened and nurtured. This might include traditional category strongholds, such as appliances and hardware, as well as newer categories, such as children's clothing. Pursuing a "best at" strategy in select categories will enable Sears to further differentiate itself while creating powerful reasons for customers to shop and return.

* Perhaps most important is the frontline operation. Having employees that consistently exhibit "brand right" behaviors (e.g., providing friendly, knowledgeable product advice, etc.) is crucial to the overall success of the new marketing and advertising strategy.

Steve Chang

Partner

Prophet

Chicago

Thinking `in the box' is to focus on brand

For the past year and a half, my partner and I have practiced what Rance Crain preached in "To win in business, sports, try thinking inside the box" (Viewpoint, AA, June 2). We espouse a single-minded strategic focus on the brand that we call "in the box." (That also happens to be our agency's name.) ...

Hopefully, Mr. Crain's column will serve as a wake-up call to creatives everywhere. While agencies large and small understand the value of thinking and executing out of the box every now and then, we must remember what was in that box to begin with: the brand. Inside-the-box thinking is what will move the brand forward in a smart, strategic way, a way that will create awareness and brand loyalty [and] reinvigorate the agency business and renew client confidence.

Steven Tollen

Eric Finkelstein

Managing Partners

In the Box

New York

Correction

* In "On-air plug pact creates debate" (June 16, P. 3), it was incorrectly reported that AOL Time Warner Chief Financial Officer Wayne Pace told financial analysts America Online had lost more than 1 million dial-up customers since late last year. Mr. Pace told analysts subscriptions were declining faster than had been expected but he did not cite that number.

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