Tinkering With Quality Can Jeopardize Success

Don't Cut Corners on Creativity Just to Trim Costs

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Bart Cleveland Bart Cleveland
A brutal economy wreaks havoc on more than ad budgets. The work suffers. It suffers not as much from budget reductions as from fear. Clients are desperate, frightened and risk-averse. They feel more pressure than ever to justify every expense with tangible, measurable results at less cost. This pressure creates a great temptation for both agency and client to tinker, to see if a little more horsepower can be squeezed from the work. This is a noble cause, but it is fraught with danger.

A few examples of tinkering: What if the ad visually "screamed" a little louder? We want people to know that things are on sale! Could the ad have more information, to more fully explain all the reasons why the customer should buy the product? Can the tone of the advertising be more matter-of-fact and less entertaining? We need to assure the customer that our brand represents concern for the difficulties of the current economy, don't we?

These are legitimate questions. Unfortunately, they are also a surefire way to erode the brand. After years of investing in a brand's power all this work can be quickly undone by abandoning and even contradicting its message. Quick sales might result, but the price can well be the devaluation and commoditization of the advertiser's product. There are too many case studies that show a brand that discounts lowers its true value in the consumer's mind.

Not surprisingly, advertisers are using the current economy to renegotiate contracts with their ad agencies. The result of paying less for branding will also erode a brand. Less money spent means less time spent. Less time results in a lack of originality. Perhaps there is a misunderstanding by advertisers of the actual cost for what we do. This could explain their belief that we can do the same quality for less money. If this is true, it is still our responsibility to make the truth be known.

As stated earlier, the less a customer values a product, the more likely they are to switch simply based on price. It is no different in our industry. If your agency has to cut prices in bad times, you can be assured they will not return to norm when times are good. The exception is when a client has a clear understanding of what they are giving up for the sake of cutting costs.

Do not give into fear. Do not put quality aside until a more economically friendly time. Bad times offer many opportunities to market your agency's talent. Effectively taking advantage of those opportunities in the bad times relies upon one thing: courage.

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