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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.
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
of Interact Multimedia;
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
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
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.
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
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."
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.
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."
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
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