WIDENING ROLES, BROADER SKILL-SETS, BIGGER EXPECTATIONS
The movers and shakers of Northeast Florida’s thriving marketing communications firms (abbr: mar′com) immediately make it clear that while advertising does play an important role in their profession there is much, much more that their dynamic and creative agencies have to offer to their clients.
Will Ketchum of Burdette Ketchum opens our discussion about mar′com firms and why they are so important to our business community by saying, “When we talk about the marcom field we include multiple disciplines—digital, public relations, paid advertising, social media, content, video— whether they are offered in an integrated or specialized manner.” He goes on to explain, “We are a strong marriage of the two concepts of art and business. You can think about all the services we provide, but our main currency is ideas. Ideas are what move people and that’s what you are really paying an agency to do.”
Mike Guiry of Shepherd agrees, and gives an example of a classic marketing ad: “There was a picture of a hitchhiker who was holding a sign that said ‘Charlotte,’ then there was another picture of that same hitchhiker, but this time he was holding a sign that said ‘Help me surprise my mother for Thanksgiving.’ Now that’s marketing – that’s selling.” Jefferson Rall of Anton West Advertising also remembers the ad and says, “When you think of that ad you are taking￼￼ the essence of what is in that hitchhiker’s heart and putting it out there for people to act on. If a brand can be articulated in a way that makes people respond to it passionately then you know you are doing something right.”
There is no doubt that when a company hires a creative marketing firm to come up with ideas that will inspire consumers to buy their products or services they are doing some- thing right. But it also gives these companies an essential edge in a business market that is constantly evolving and teeming with competitors. West Herford of On Ideas says, “One of the greatest challenges of a marketing firm is how to give clients not just the comfort, but the confidence not to blend in.” Mary Fisher of Fisher Design adds, “Focusing on the one thing that makes you stand out, that’s the whole point.”
Guiry expands on the concept of differentiating yourself from your rivals by saying, “Our best value is our experience in other categories. If you are in one industry and you are always doing what your competitors are doing that is what shapes your thinking. You need someone to come in and say, ‘Look over here at what we are doing with the railroad, wouldn’t that be interesting for your veterinary hospital?’” It’s that type of out of the box creative thinking that shapes an agency, and when Guiry says, “You have to think like a businessperson as well as an artist,” his colleagues nod in agreement.
Gone are the days when there were only a few outlets for a company to get the word out about their services and products. In today’s digital age, marketing strategies are becoming ever more complex and best handled by those who are well-versed in both the business and creative aspects of a company. However, Christopher Olberding of Station Four, described as a digital agency on their website, cautions that not all companies need to jump wholeheartedly into newer marketing outlets such as social media: “I recommend not going into social media as much as I recommend going into it. It depends on the personality of a company. At the end of the day, social media is about sharing with customers in an authentic way. If a company does not a have a voice that they’re comfortable speaking in then they shouldn’t do it.”
But, Ketchum says, even before a company decides whether they want to jump on the social media bandwagon by tweeting or posting, the company first needs to set a marketing foundation when they meet with their agency of choice. “Investments like a logo, a website, brochures—these are some of the things that you just must have. You cannot be conspicuously absent from the web, you need a logo on your business card, and you may need basic literature about your company in a brochure that your sales representatives can use.”
He explains that once the marketing foundation of brand and website is set, then a company must contemplate the investment in demand creation. “So now, for example, we are talking about spending media dollars or engaging a firm on a retained public relations contract. You have to assess your business model and project how a heightened marketing spend will create a multiplier on that investment.” Here, Guiry jumps in and says, “Yes, but you have to know what your goal is first. If you’re going to [quantify] your success or failure you have to measure back to something specific you are trying to accomplish. Whether it is just an awareness of your product or perhaps sales, which are easy to track and measure, you just have to know what you are trying to achieve.”
When Guiry brings up the concept of tracking and measuring Herford says, “This is a question that everyone of us gets asked at least once a week, ‘How is your campaign going?’ Well, we made a big investment and hired data analysts. We want to be able to have a perspective on not just what’s happening with our campaigns, but why. Any given campaign can have many different components–emails, radio, social media, maybe you have an event, public relations, paid advertising–you have all of this going on and all of a sudden website traffic and sales are going up and you can say, ‘We’ve succeeded!’ Yeah, well sure that’s good if your goals were to increase website traffic and sales, but why…because we want to do that over and over again and we want to get rid of things that were superfluous to the original initiative.”
The consensus of the group is that it is now exceedingly important to analyze the marketing data that Herford is referring to so that an agency can then focus on only the parts of a campaign that are producing results, and in the long run that is what will save their clients both time and money.
To this point the discussion has been focused on what it is that market- ing agencies can do for their clients: It is Ketchum who brings up the subject of when a company needs to decide whether to hire an agency, saying, “You hire an agency when you need to turbocharge your marketing program—you need to be more aggressive, but another reason is because we can assemble a group of talent under one roof that most traditional business organizations simply cannot.” Everyone concurs, and Herford goes on to say, “We can throw together the collective wisdom of media designers, programmers, social media managers, all these folks that no client could ever afford to have on their staff. When you talk about multidisciplinary, that for me is the most compelling thing about what we do–you’re not going to have the multiple skill levels and disciplines in-house that we can provide.” Fisher continues this line of thought with, “And don’t forget sub-specialties: For example, not just a web designer, but a writer who does search engine-optimized copy for a website.”
It is plain to see that marcom firms will provide the diverse, artistic, and innovative individuals that can help a company achieve all of its business objectives, but the last significant point that those in attendance want to make is that companies in Northeast Florida need not look elsewhere to find an agency that will fit their needs perfectly given the excellence of all of their local firms. As Guiry simply states, “There’s absolutely no reason to leave Jacksonville to find a creative marketing agency.”
Thanks to the following for participating in our round table discussion: Will Ketchum of Burdette Ketchum, Mike Guiry of Shepherd, Jefferson Rall of Anton West Advertising, West Herford of On Ideas, Mary Fisher of Fisher Design, Christopher Olberding of Station Four. ￼￼￼￼
Article written by Eva Dasher