Letters, June 28, 2010

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Creatives can work left-brain, right-brain simultaneously

In response to: Why a Little Discipline Is Good for the Creative Process, AdAge.com

We were relieved to see Avi Dan's piece on "Why a Little Discipline is Good for the Creative Process." As the progenitors of the Six Sigma methodology, we've long thought that marketing and creative services would benefit as much from better process as any other. But because the discipline's history is tied to manufacturing -- notwithstanding that service companies have provided the majority of our revenues for some years now -- it's been a tough sell. But the tide is turning.

We know that continuous improvement yields results in environments where creativity and innovation drive the business. In the legal world, where work is considered as much art as science, we've been able to help increase margin and efficiency while devising a new way to provide value to clients: that's innovation. (And happier clients, more clients, returning clients and potentially a new business model in a sector whose clients are demanding it. Sound familiar?) Much of our other work resides in the R&D and design departments of many "creative" companies, understanding customers better and coming up with new ideas.

Our success in bringing process to new sectors has been, as Dan suggested, in customizing the practice to the sector. In professional services, that has meant losing the jargon, deploying fewer statistical tools and maintaining a flexible approach to data, a polite and deeply effective way to both respect and leverage the culture in which one operates. Let's not pretend that what worked at GE will work at your boutique online agency.

As agencies, you are rightly pushing your clients to adapt to new environments, leverage new ideas and get closer to their customers. We'd suggest that there is big opportunity in turning the same lens on the agency business itself. Finally, let's step firmly into the 21st century and drop the false assumption that a creative person can't hold "cycle time" and "magenta red" in his or her mind simultaneously.

Even if you like ordering the world in right brain/left brain or creative-type/account-type divides, current science is showing that those don't hold up as firmly as we might like -- you may need to work a little harder, but wouldn't it be worth having your creative genius find expression in execution because good process helped it get there?

Internet giveth and taketh away in automotive world

In response to: Is Digital Revolution Driving Decline in U.S. Care Culture?, AdAge.com

There is an interesting dichotomy in the research results reported in your article and research we recently completed at Foresight Research on the influence of the internet and social media on automotive sales.

While it may well be true that the internet is causing fewer young drivers to buy new vehicles . . . that same internet is the biggest single shopping guide to those who do want to purchase new vehicles.

In 2009, 86% of all new car buyers used the internet in their new-vehicle-purchase process. And in addition to that, 36% reported that the internet highly influenced their purchase, making it the No. 1 marketing channel of communication. But what's most interesting is that nearly a quarter of buyers under the age of 35 used some form of social media to share their decision with other buyers.

Social networking is a fast-growing electronic word-of-mouth, and is often used by folks we call "shouters" because they are nonstop talkers and play a large role in the sale of new vehicles to other people. . . . Ninety-three percent of them used the internet in their shopping, and 29% offered specific vehicle recommendations to other buyers.

When we look at the buyers on the receiving end of those recommendations, 51% said they used anonymous reviews and 75% said they used social networking to consult with a friend or family member.

As the Bible says, "What the Lord (or teacher) giveth, the Lord taketh away." In this case, with the internet being the teacher, it may be taking some young car buyers out of the market, but at the same time it's influencing a whole lot more of them to stay in and buy the cars they buy.


RE: "How AT&T Plans to Lift Its Image Via Social-Media Customer Care" (AA, June 21). Shawn McPike was incorrectly referred to as Shawn Pike.

RE: "The Global CMO Interview: Erin Mulligan Nelson, Dell" (AA, June 14). The article inaccurately stated that Dell is organized into four product divisions. It is organized into four business units.

RE: "What's the Next Orphan Brand as Marketers Look to Trim?" (AA, May 31). The story incorrectly stated that Prestige Brands is putting most of its lineup on the sale block. The company is only actively shopping its Cutex brand.

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