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This article was prepared for the April 24, 2002 edition of

U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Brave New World For Ad Agencies

During the past two years, said by some to be the most

difficult the ad industry has ever endured, the rules for advertising

and marketing firms have changed radically. At the same time, their

clients are finding that the old ways of attracting and retaining

business are back in style.

Dan Regan, director of marketing at Princeton Partners, explains

why this is so when he speaks on "Wake-Up Call: Turn Off the


Snooze Alarm…It’s Time to Build New Strategies" on Wednesday,

May 1, at 4 p.m. at a meeting of the New Jersey Technology Council

at the offices of Concurrent Technologies in Liberty Corner. Also

speaking: Faye Gregory-Yuppa of Applied Success; Kevin Lee

of Interact Multimedia; Jim Lenskold of Lenskold Marketing


and Donald Murphy of Renewal Strategies. Cost: $40. Call


Regan, who graduated from Penn State in 1983 with a degree in


has been with Princeton Partners for three years. Before that, he

worked in sales and marketing "back in the days when companies

did slide shows," owned a business that produced sales training

materials, and worked in industrial sales. He has carried sales bags,

worked with a small staffs of salespeople, and overseen large,


sales forces. He sees his role at Princeton Partners — obtaining

new business — as a natural step.

And obtaining new business has never been as important for advertising

firms. "The last year or two has pretty much stunk," he says,

blaming clients’ budget cuts. But while advertising budgets are bound

to rebound, he says, "the nature of the ad business has changed,

and it’s looking maybe permanent."

The reason, he says, is that a good portion of ad firm revenue


has come from fees, from ongoing retainers. A company has its ad firm,

and it was there that it turned whenever it needed PR or a product

launch or rebranding.

"Clients are now much more ROI and bottom-line oriented,"

Regan is finding. "They have so many resources." The


ad agency has to be "proactive," a word Regan emphasizes again

and again. It is now necessary to figure out a client’s needs before

he knows he has them. "If you don’t," he says, "somebody

else will."

Long term relationships are increasingly being replaced by project

work. Whoever walks in the door with the best idea, and perhaps even

more importantly, says Regan, establishes chemistry, will get the

project. Clients no longer decide they need a new campaign and just

dial up their agency. Competition is fierce, and agencies that sit

around waiting for longstanding clients to come to them with requests

for work will wither.

While it is a new day for ad agencies, it is back to basics for their

clients. Here is some of Regan’s advice on achieving outstanding



Get emotional. "A lot of companies are technology

driven," he says. "Therefore, they are product driven. The

emphasis is often on the product and not on the customer relationship.

There is a build-a-better-mouse-trap mentality. That doesn’t work


No matter how good the mouse trap, an audience will not automatically

materialize. It is necessary, says Regan, to cultivate clients on

an emotional level. Establish common ground, really know their needs,

and don’t be as focused on the gee whiz aspects of the technology.

Have a plan. Regan says his agency’s tagline is


brand agency." It offers everything from public relations to web

development to direct marketing. Some of these tools will boost a

particular company’s fortunes while the same tools may do nothing

for another company. "For some clients," says Regan, "a

whole big national campaign is what they need to build awareness.

For others, dollar one in advertising would be a waste. They need


Forget the splash. This is a lesson that doesn’t have

to be pushed too hard. For the most part, it has been learned.


with $5 million in revenue spent $6 million on two 30-second


at the Super Bowl," Regan says, laughing at the folly. "They

thought they could buy their way into a brand. It made no sense."

The only way to build a brand, in his view, is the old-fashioned way.

Slowly. "It takes time and energy," he says. "You have

to deliver again and again."

But don’t overlook the Internet. Internet companies may

have made some amazingly bad marketing decisions, and the medium got

tarred in the process. Regan says, however, that some of the simplest

and most inexpensive marketing tools are on the Internet. These


website optimization and search engine optimization, and, he says,

"a lot of companies are overlooking this."

Targeted E-mail is an effective marketing tool, too, as long as it

is of the opt-in variety that is only sent to surfers who specifically

request information, and then are given an opportunity in each E-mail

to end the online relationship.

Never forget your front line. A lot of attention is given

to branding, says Regan. Companies labor over new names, new logos,

new taglines. But they often forget the element that makes the most

difference. "Brand image," he says, "is not being filtered

down to the sales people." Or to the help desk or the customer

service operators. And, says Regan, "if you blow it there, you’ve

lost a customer."

Asked about any marketing tools that are new for 2002, Regan

replies, "there are an awful lot of things about marketing that

haven’t changed, that won’t change much. They said the Internet would

change our lives. I haven’t seen it. We have new tools to do the same

old things. You have to match a customer with a product. That will

never change."

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