Consumer vision for b-to-b creative

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Phil Gayter, who joined marketing communications agency Nicholson Kovac in February as director of creative services, brings broad expertise in b-to-b and consumer advertising to the Kansas City, Mo., agency.

Gayter has held creative and management positions at prominent ad agencies including Leo Burnett USA and Euro RSCG, as well as founding ad agency Spot the Monkey in Chicago.

During his career, he has worked on such brands as Abbott Laboratories, Allstate, Coca-Cola and Reebok, and has won numerous ad industry awards, including Addys, Clios and Effies.

During a recent interview with BtoB, Gayter talked about creative advertising in b-to-b and how it could be better.

BtoB: How would you characterize the state of creative in b-to-b marketing?

Gayter: Overall, I think b-to-b tends to be a little bit safer than b-to-c. It is because the target audience is so much narrower. B-to-b operates in a tighter box. Generally speaking, rather than taking a scattershot approach [like] you use with consumer advertising, b-to-b is more like taking a sniper rifle approach, which is understanding the target audience and hitting them right between the eyeballs with your message.

There is an underlying fear that if you use too much of a creative edge, you are no longer being businesslike; so people tend to be a little more cautious.

BtoB: Is there room for more of a creative edge in b-to-b marketing?

Gayter: I hope to bring more of that edge, also being mindful of the fact that in b-to-b, people are looking for something more specific. They are looking for information, and sometimes they are already shopping for a particular product.

With consumer marketing, you tend to have to create a need and a want before you can make the sale, and that is the difference. I think b-to-b creative could be a little better.

BtoB: How could it be better?

Gayter: A lot of the time in b-to-b briefings and strategy sessions, you talk about tactics and lists of requirements. I think that we forget the human dynamic behind the sale—what is the emotional reason that people are buying the product?

Consumer-based advertising tends to be more human-need driven, while b-to-b advertising tends to be more business-driven. Both approaches can learn from each other. The smart thing is to try to work out when which direction is needed more than the other. Sometimes it is best just to get to the point and not be too emotional. But sometimes, when you are trying to create a point of difference in some of the me-too markets, going deeper into the human dynamic can be the differentiator. In that sense, having consumer knowledge can help.

BtoB: What is your vision for leading the creative department at Nicholson Kovac?

Gayter: We have a magnificent agency, which has been proven by 25 years of steady growth in the b-to-b space. My role is to tighten up and sharpen the creative product. We have some amazing creatives. We need to get back to the roots of what we are in business for, which is very, very consistently producing creative solutions for our clients. At the agency, our mantra is "relative ingenuity." That is really a summation of the philosophy we can use to build the creative credentials.

BtoB: Will you make organizational changes in the creative department?

Gayter: One thing we are starting to implement is more cross-fertilization between the interactive and creative departments. It's something a lot of agencies are struggling with.

There is an analogy to chess. Traditional ad agencies may have been comfortable playing chess, but what has happened in our industry is that we are now playing 3-D chess, where you have to cross-reference everything that is going on above and below you. For example, if you launch a new interactive site, what does that mean for emerging cell phone technology, and what are the implications for dollars spent in other media?

BtoB: How do you see media budgets and strategies shifting as a result of new media platforms?

Gayter: It is changing dramatically. I don't think it is the death of traditional media.

It is a fantastic opportunity—it is the birth of a multiscreen environment, where you have TVs, computers, cell phones and movie theater screens. It is really the rebirth of television. You have to have smarter programming and advertising that cross-adapts. Now, it is not about shooting a 30-second TV commercial. Now, you have to shoot a film that has implications for how the creative will look on a cell phone monitor and in a movie theater. That changes the way you think about creative.

There are fantastic opportunities, and Nicholson Kovac totally gets that.

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