Editorial

Anybody's gameFor all of the uncertainty over what lies ahead, the marketing and advertising community seems fairly agreed upon one thing. We have not simply receded from the past, implying that like a tidal pattern we can expect at some point...

Anybody’s game

For all of the uncertainty over what lies ahead, the marketing and advertising community seems fairly agreed upon one thing. We have not simply receded from the past, implying that like a tidal pattern we can expect at some point to return to a familiar watermark.

Rather, we are permanently separated from the way things were. And there is no predicting the way things are going to be because that is being shaped and reshaped a little bit at a time every day.

In the process, many traditional roles and relationships have changed, and, as Labatt Breweries of Canada showed so dramatically, in this environment, anything can happen.

One way of putting a perspective on all of this would be to imagine a boardroom setting. The client, understandably, is at the head of the table. The advertising agency executives sit at the right hand of the client and take up a disproportionate number of seats. The remaining chairs are taken up by the other stakeholders in the marketing process, namely media and the suppliers of various production, creative and research services.

Everyone’s sole purpose is to help sell the client’s product. Until very recently, the agency people have not only been responsible for crafting the preferred communications tool – media advertising – but they have also been speaking to the client on behalf of everyone else at the table. Ad agencies have been the client’s interpreter and trusted advisor.

This is being altered significantly.

A story on the changing nature of in-store advertising in this issue, for instance, tells of how the Coca-Cola company has turned tradition upside down by allowing a retail strategy to drive its marketing plan. The company, which helped invent modern-day marketing, calls its approach ‘point-of-sale backplanning.’ The process starts with an in-store strategy and moves outward to television and other traditional media.

Advertising obviously still has a role to play in any consumer marketer’s overall gameplan. But, today, the proponents of advertising represent just another voice at the table. And they have not been doing a very good job lately. As ad agency executive Eric Blais argues, also in this issue: ‘Over the years, the agency community has done amazingly little to prove the effectiveness of advertising.’

Clients are not going to necessarily return to advertising. They need to be convinced, and agencies have a lot of convincing to do. Agencies are no longer at the front of the queue for marketing dollars, and the competition for budgets is fierce.

As Murray Cresswell, a group account director at Etobicoke-based sales promotion agency The Gaylord Group puts it:

‘Many companies used to say, `This is the advertising budget. This is the promotional budget. Now they are saying, `This is the marketing money.’ ‘

Today’s client is ready to hear from anyone at the table. Not in terms of grps or cpms or fancy double-page spreads. But new ideas. Innovative solutions to their business problems. It means everyone at the table has to do a lot more homework, and really understand the client and the client’s business, because when they speak up, it had better be good.