There is one small point we differ on. I believe a company's most valuable asset is its employees, not its products or services. Employees also suffer at the hand of a management team that looks only to stock price to guide its actions. Looking at all the layoffs over the past year, I wonder how many firings would have been avoided by a "properly motivated" management team, as now they look to fill many of these empty corporate positions.
In the end, it costs companies more to fire and re-hire than to hold onto employees during tough times. These costs come in tangible dollars and cents to the company, as well as emotional costs for those who go and those who stay.
`Inbreeding' hampers multidiscipline ideas
Rance Crain expressed amazement after Advertising Age's AdWatch conference at how advertisers are considering lowering their presence in traditional media because it's just not working in a dramatically altered marketing landscape ("Marketers look at new ideas, and PR becomes the `closer,"' Viewpoint, AA, July 29). I agree that public relations alone is not the solution; it's one part of an integrated approach-something the media community should consider in its hiring practices, as well.
Traditional media has traditionally hired from within its ranks. But while internal promotion and scouting the direct competition for talent are certainly tried-and-true and valid practices, over time this can have a detrimental effect on the unique brand of marketing creativity that leads to the kind of multi-discipline thinking and solutions that Mr. Crain discusses. People tend to bring the same mind-set from place to place.
The magazine field provides a perfect example of this kind of inbreeding. Any "outsider" who has ever interviewed for a position at a women's service magazine knows that it's an exercise in futility-that someone with the same title at a sister book will almost certainly land the job. No matter if you're a brilliant marketer with a proven track record. Cover up the title on the cover or on the collateral materials, and it's pretty hard to name the magazine. Is it any wonder that "differentiation" is an industry buzzword these days?
It's all about the brand. Integrated packages. Strategic partnerships. A little personnel integration across boundaries-agency, media and client, as well as product and service categories-can go a long way in building brand awareness, effective marketing solutions and loyal, long-lasting consumer relationships. Let's practice what we preach.
How much trust do consumers have?
I enjoyed Rance Crain's column "Now here's a radical theory: ads last bastion of honesty" (Viewpoint, AA, July 1). But I question how much trust consumers have in advertising today. I'm afraid the same cynicism that's eroded consumer confidence in general also has clearly affected trust in advertising. The brands and services that he points to as "bastions of honesty" are those few that have consistently built consumer confidence with quality, reliability and credibility. They have clearly earned the consumer's confidence over time, and that results from a corporate culture of integrity.
Too many of today's management have been caught up in the pervasive malaise of "spin," which rewards shady and questionable behavior and allows it to spread through every department and activity of the company, including marketing and advertising. Examples are rampant: traditional one pound cans that contain 14 ounces; oversized containers that are half full; ads filled with asterisks and small print; labels that show one thing and fill the container with another; false pricing, etc.
The advertising that continues to generate trust (and sales) is generally pretty straightforward and usually very product oriented. That doesn't mean it's not creative. On the contrary, because it is so straightforward it has to be more creative to sustain consumer interest. I fully agree with Rance Crain that too many CEOs have lost their way when it comes to brand building and have concentrated on bottom-lining. But it is not so much that they are not "intimately involved in building great brands" as it is the fact that they are willing to move the business ahead in any and every way, even if that means compromising integrity.
Leo Burnett gave a wonderful speech at the 1968 Burnett Breakfast titled "Integrity in a world of change." It is truly worth reading and maybe even taping it to a wall as a constant reminder of what the business is really all about. In it he says, "Integrity, as Nicholas Murray Butler once defined it, is the indispensable core of a man's make-up, both intellectual and moral; that quality of unity, wholeness, steadfastness, straightforwardness, based solidly on indestructible convictions about what is right and honest and good for one's fellow man." Leo continued, "Advertising with integrity, mind you, doesn't have to be sober, dull or square. It can be fresher than springtime and as stimulating as mountain air."
Richard B. Criswell
* In "Cox rolls out ad-backed video service" (Aug. 19, P. 3), Kraft Foods was incorrectly identified as a Starcom client. Kraft is a client of MediaVest, a unit of Bcom3 Group's Starcom MediaVest Worldwide.
* In "HBO bets on `Sopranos' name" (July 22, P. 37), the tagline "It's not TV. It's HBO" was incorrectly credited to Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, New York. Richard Ellenson, an independent contractor to AOL Time Warner's HBO, created the tagline along with HBO.