Special report profile: Greco knows art of war

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Greco Ethridge Group Inc. offers Web development, consulting and marketing, but founders Tucker Greco and Rob Ethridge don't call their shop an interactive agency.

Instead, they argue, Greco Ethridge is a b-to-b marketing communications firm that provides customers online and offline marketing tools appropriate to the task at hand.

Interactive agencies, Greco Ethridge contends, see the solution to every problem as an interactive ad. Or they cite the old saw: if you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

But Paul Marobella, Greco Ethridge's VP-brand strategy, prefers a more bellicose image of what the New York-based company provides its clients. "I like using a war metaphor," he said. "If outdoor is sort of like air cover and advertising is the armies storming the Bastille, then online advertisements are the snipers."

But the snipers are not always necessary when doing marketing battle, Greco said. "It depends on the target market," he explained. "We have a dot-com client in the heavy construction industry and we were trying to generate greater awareness. The target audience is not technologically comfortable yet. So to spend a lot of money or any money online to look for buyers was not a good way to spend."

Marobella laments that many marketers see online advertising as a requirement these days, even though all of them would not necessarily see running a branding campaign or a direct mail program as always warranted. "Too many people just want to bolt it on to a program," he said.

He also observed that many marketers lose sight of basic b-to-b marketing principles when they move a program to the Web. To drive traffic to their Web sites, many companies offer the chance to win a very mainstream prize, such as a car or a PalmPilot, Marobella said. Instead, marketers should offer an appropriate incentive to attract not the merely greedy but potential customers.

And the Web site, he added, shouldn't just be brochureware. There must be a solid reason for asking potential customers to go to the site. "If we're going to do online advertising, there has to be some compelling reason for them to click through to the site, and once they get there you have to give them something to do," Marobella said.

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