The Value of a Long Wide Antenna

Be Receptive to a Wide Range of Ideas

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Tom Martin Tom Martin
I'm not a very smart guy. But luckily (for myself and for my clients) I am a voracious reader, insanely curious and have made a lifelong commitment to always make time to learn. In short, I believe that by casting a Long Wide Antenna (LWA) I am able to seem smart and occasionally be smart -- or at least clever.

So far, this philosophy has kept me employed for almost 20 years, established me as a well-regarded and often desired public speaker, and I think it even helped me to secure this little gig on Ad Age. But most of all, the LWA philosophy is what makes me (and will make you) a better marketer.

Our business is changing quickly and in so many different ways that no one person can really be on top of everything. In fact, I commented in a previous post on the need to create an insight and information department to solve this exact problem. But with a LWA, you can at least sample the best thinking of others and place that thinking into some kind of informed context. And if you're lucky, it will spur a few new ideas of your own.

For instance, a few weeks ago Joseph Jaffe spoke to the New Orleans Ad Club. The points that he shared inspired a few thoughts of my own; thoughts I think are important enough to pass along here. His first point was his belief that marketers need to "fragment with [their] consumer," which I theoretically agree with but honestly wonder if we can. And if we can, I began to think of what kind of premium clients would place on agencies that can successfully produce messages in lots of channels cost effectively. This thought is something that really had nothing to do with what Jaffe was saying, but none-the-less it is very important for an agency to consider.

In a highly fragmented media environment, cost-efficient production could become a real differentiator in our business. Good God, that is a scary thought isn't it? While it is easy to buy media in lots of channels, the cost of producing all those various ads, spots, etc., can roll up pretty quickly. And while I shutter to consider having to possibly compete on our firm's ability to produce "cheap," I totally agree with Jaffe. The need to fragment with the consumer is there, but I wonder if advertisers waking up to this will judge an ad agency's value equation differently than they do today.

He went on to talk about the need for brands to demonstrate, involve and empower consumers. Again, very cool thoughts. If you're casting your own LWA, undoubtalbly you've read the research about long-term brand affinity and how 85% of it is driven by experience and post-experience.

He gave a number of great examples, and it really made me stop to think again: How does this change the role of ad agencies? Does it mean we need to hire different folks? Or just re-train the ones we have? Should we offer different services, create entirely new departments, or partner with specialists in order to remain relevant to our clients' marketing needs?

There is no easy answer. But the thoughts are definitely worthy of a conversation with the leaders of our firm over cocktails. If for no other reason than to ensure we plan for the various scenarios that could play out.

And in my humble opinion, that is the greatest value of casting a Long Wide Antenna. By constantly exposing yourself to the random, smart thoughts of others you may actually have a few of your own.

So if you do nothing more today, send everyone on your staff an e-mail and encourage them to begin casting his or her own LWA. Believe me, you'll be a better agency for it. And your clients will appreciate it.

And to Joseph, thanks for popping down to NOLA to share your insights and thoughts with us. And of course, for giving me something to write about.
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