local media insider

What's the big idea?


I's time to get people excited about what they do. And one way to energize organizations is to focus on a department that is often overlooked: Creative services.

Various prevailing mantras I've heard recently include “we are going to sell every impression;” “we are going to sell audiences not products;" “we will sell share of customer,” and the truly scintillating “we are now in the customer distribution business.”

Today the "agency model" has been adopted as a conceptual model by most local media companies. But somehow creative services are seldom mentioned. The "agency model" seems more like a catch-all phrase to cover an ever-growing list of digital products and services. An inherent contradiction re-emerges when the sales representatives hit the street. In other words, at face value the agency model flunks the "show me the money" test.

Focusing on creative services breaths life into the agency model. Great campaign ideas with trackable results multiply revenues and meet the basic need for sales representatives to believe in what they sell. 

But it's also an important part of changing organizational culture to grow digital revenues and transform their business model. If Customer A spends $100. Then Customer A with a great campaign idea and strategy that revenues will spend $100 x four on both  digital and legacy media. Focusing on the big campaign idea gets everyone in the company - sales, interactive and creative are after the same team -  are going after the ultimate goal, advertiser success.

In most local media companies there is a schism between the sales force and digital managers with competing goals; something that top executives either deny, pacify or integrate through complex strategies we've talked about before.

One key note speaker even gave the mantra “only the schitzophrenic will survive,” an ode to ill-mental health which no team really wants to hear (is my role just one of the delusional talking voices the diseased brain of my company has been instructed to preserve until the entire psyche can handle my lay-off?). 

I'm a big fan of having solid products like SEM and social media services aimed to increase  "share of customer" and utilizing specialists to build out share of customer with digital products. But the sina qua non of the campaign is not just technology, it's the creative.

To really take advantage of  creative services, local media should start to track and share top performing ad campaigns on a regular basis  and use them to teach the new mantra that all campaigns need to bring great results for advertisers.

Does this take great creative services? Of course! Invite them to the party. Print execs: Your designers no longer just producing a newspaper, so why are they reporting to production? They need to be on the revenue team. 

I really know a media company "gets it" when I hear them say one thing: "We are selling ideas."  Good campaign ideas for advertisers attract multi-media services and dollars like moths to a flame.  

A side benefit is that they inspire organizations and help people to like their jobs.

In fact, I would argue that a good campaign idea is worth four times the monetary value of a bad idea in terms of what the customer ultimately spends because it delivers results - especially in the digital universe where results are trackable. 

What would it be worth if  even a small percentage of SMB advertisers touched and sold spent four times more?  

Think of it this way, and forgive the roughness of the estimate, but  would happen  if 25% of  your company's average-sized advertisers wanted to continue their compaigns all year? (Notice I didn’t say spend on digital products or legacy products, it doesn’t really matter. A good campaign sustains spending in all categories because it delivers on all fronts). 

Total revenues from retail would double.  In fact ad directors say that ultimately the customers with great campaigns buy more of everything, both digital and legacy media. Most ad directors said their customers who have Winning Ads on this site resigned for a year. But who is tracking these successes and the money they bring to your company? 

Have the courage of your convictions and shuffle people so that a creative services department to report to the revenue side - or at least the most creative people in creative services. Then look for  replacement dollars to start showing up, account by account, times four.

As a starting point, ask sales managers to look at results from all local campaigns, put the best examples on a power point, and share them regularily  with the sales team, creative services and top management.  Don't know the results from a broadcast/print portion of the campaign? Pick up the phone and dial the number on the ad. It's that simple.

Great campaign ideas drive multiple product sales and result in annual renewals. If the first buy was three months, the annual renewal is often four times the revenues of the campaign with a crappy idea. 

Finding a big idea for each advertiser  also energizes the team. In print operations, top designers are liberated from production and have a viable career path through the company. For broadcast, the creative team is freed to think of ideas that make money, not just spend it; they get to see results and sharpen their skills based on the feedback. 

When sales representatives know what kinds of campaigns produce extraordinary results, they are more confident in talking to advertisers about expected results and able to see why they need to conduct a true needs analysis. Not a list of questions with a trained-pony responses, but critical thinking about of where the money is for that business and what kinds of messages and offers customers will respond to. 

Retention plus share-of-customer  is the new black on the spread sheet. When you add together the advertisers extra investment in multiple platforms against a good concept;  and include the higher retention rates, the business model suddenly changes. 

This is the power of a good creative idea - and  a great visual image - to increase revenues, magically, with your own staff buried in your company and unhappy with their jobs but too afraid to lose them.

One last note: Selling Facebook, as I’ve already written about, is instrumental in “grasping” the concept, not because Facebook per se is anything special, but because without an idea on Facebook the fan page sits there like a dead fish. Fans are not pushed, like friends, they can only be enticed by … a marketing concept. We need to get better at asking “what’s the big idea?”

The future depends on it.

(Note: I split this blog, as it was getting too long. Part two will be reposted later in the week. Anyone who wants to participate in sharing top performing campaigns, please send me an email at alisacromer@gmail.com)

advertising, sales, creative, the big idea


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