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The 3 biggest problems with in-house agencies

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The rise of in-house agencies is certainly one of the biggest changes within the marketing world over the past few years.  In-house teams are brought together usually to run digital marketing programmes, or design work, or social media.
The business case for an in-house agency is typically a mix of:
  • Focus & attention – no agency can know or care as much as we do about our business.
  • Greater agility – being always on they make businesses more responsive.
  • Managing the digital engine – having the core drivers of direct e-commerce owned and managed in-house.
  • Cost savings – shedding the cost of external agencies in favour of internal teams.
  • Because others are doing it – in-house teams are in vogue and seen as the modern way to go.
There are many companies that operate a mixed model of some in-house, supplemented by external specialists.
While some in-house agencies operate very effectively, there are some problems that are all too common.
Three big ones are:
  1. Ready, fire, aim
    This is when companies are looking for short-term wins, but end up delivering short-term whims that lack strategic purpose or cohesion. Having the means of production at hand can make it too tempting to execute before thinking it through.
    The risk is inconsistency, a lack of relevance, confusion and a dilution of brand strength.
  2. Cars with no petrol
    This is when the creation of in-house capability is a mask for reducing the marketing budget. It can become an excuse for minimising marketing effort.
    The risk is an erosion of brand health through underinvestment.
  3. Drinking our own Kool-Aid
    This is when companies limit their activity to only what they do in-house. An internal focus without debate and the stretch of strategic and creative interpretation can lead to companies limiting the scope and quality of what they do.
    The risk is weak marketing and communications, resulting from limited strategic, creative or technical crafting.
Headlight works with a number of in-house teams, providing expert strategic direction, problem solving and insights to help clients get the best from their marketing investment.
Please get in touch for a chat if you need help with your in-house team.

Why people hate ads – especially digital ones

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A good read from Vieo…

Advertising is only getting more pervasive, obnoxious, and intrusive. That’s not my personal opinion (though I absolutely agree); that’s the internet speaking.

According to recent consumer surveys, digital advertising doesn’t exactly have the best rep. Pop-ups interrupt the browsing experience at every turn. Creepy remarketing stalks you with the same display ad everywhere you go. Autoplaying videos embarrass you in waiting rooms and on buses. You can hardly read a news article without having to scroll past a dozen ads and accidentally clicking on one of them.

Read more here…

‘Millennials’: just a buzzword?

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The Millennial generation as defined by Pew Research is anyone born between the years 1981 and 1996. In 2018, this includes everyone age 21 to 37 (That’s about the age gap between Kylie Jenner and Kim Jong-Un) this extends from people just entering the workspace to ‘adults’ with 2 kids or more.
The much-hyped label ‘Millennials’ has resulted in a blanket buzzword that is often met with derision. It brings up an image of Snapchat-happy narcissists who hate hard work and criticism but love ethical products and spending all their money on avocado toast.
Apparently, millennials are killing countless industries, here are a few from a seemingly never-ending list.
  1. Napkins
  2. Cereal
  3. Golf
  4. Motorcycles
  5. Yoghurt ( especially light yoghurt)
  6. Homeownership
  7. Diamonds
  8. Soap bars
  9. Banks
For a more detailed read and more industries that have apparently been brought to their knees, read more here. Some of the other more bizarre accusations range from being afraid of doorbells, bringing about the end of churchgoing, giving up on dinner dates and loving wine but not the process of uncorking it.
In the marketing sense, it is illogical to assume that a 21-year-old and a 37-year-old consume the same media, have similar life interests or even react to the same stimulus. Understandable that “a generational name helps to start a conversation,” according to Jason Dorsey, president and lead researcher of millennials at the Centre for Generational Kinetics, a research firm that studies millennials and Generation Z. “Otherwise, we might be saying ‘twentysomething’ and ‘thirtysomething,’ which is not actually generation-specific but a demographic.
The Wall Street Journal has admitted that the term ‘Millennials’ has become a sort of snide shorthand in their reporting, Fortune has suggested dropping the title, millennials themselves hate being clubbed together and research too has shown that most resist the label.
Author and journalist, Summer Brennan, came up with an interesting idea aimed at getting people to accurately understand the term ‘millennial’. Every time you see a headline that mentions ‘millennials’, replace it with ‘adults under 40’.
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If you do that for the examples stated above, ‘adults under 40′ killed the napkin/cereal/yogurt/diamond industry; ‘adults under 40’ are afraid of doorbells does sound a little absurd. It does help to take a deep breath and objectively take buzzwords out to get a real understanding. This all comes down to the way we frame conversation shapes our worldview. Specific words and phrases have the power to change minds.
A famous quote from Winston Churchill (originally describing Israel) seems to sum up the generation pretty well “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”.
On the other end of the spectrum, one of  Deloitte’s startling revelations was that media consumption behaviours of Gen  Z,  Millennials,  and  Gen X are now so similar, they nicknamed this combined group the “MilleXZials.” But that definitely needs a blog post in itself and a revamp of the way we compartmentalize and understand the world.

What’s up with Gen Z?

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Gen Z has grown up in a world full of distrustful government leaders, increased awareness of privacy issues and generations laden with debt. This has only made them distrustful of authority and big brands. Thanks to their Gen X parents, they are more realistic that opportunities are not boundless (unlike Millennials) and that they need to continue to master new skills to stay relevant. Below are a few Gen Z insights to keep top of mind to get a grasp of what this generation is all about.
Quick Facts:
  • Gen Z is categorised as people born between 1996 and 2011
  • Material-related desires, such as driving a nice car, have become less important with having fun, travelling, creating deep connections and having a more meaningful life rising in importance to Gen Z
  • Have an 8-second attention span
  • Gen Z spend up to 11 hours per day on social media
  • More money conscious than Millennials
Hard work pays:
A stark difference from Millennials, this is a generation that is hardworking and does not expect to be lavished with praise and rewards at the smallest drop of a hat. Brands need to find a way to help them further their professional and personal lives. They have seen that millennials expect to be given things and realized that hasn’t always happened, so they feel a real responsibility to work hard and achieve goals for themselves.
Authenticity is key:
Growing up in a digital age, Gen Z has been able to spot sales pitches fairly easily and disregard flashy advertising to be shallow and not relevant. Authenticity has been seen as a crucial factor to connect with brands; where there has been a real effort put in to understand the audience and what is relevant + interesting. Reality over aspiration, where information from the horse’s mouth holds the greatest value and not the shiny packaging it comes in.  According to research from Wundermann“They want to see their world in the ad world, they want it to be realistic. They don’t expect perfection. They don’t want to see a model with their hair blowing back in a cornfield, putting on mascara. They know that’s not true.”
Co-creation is the new User Generated Content:
Personalised interactions with brands allow Gen Z to create their own unique experiences. According to research conducted by Kantar Millward Brown Gen Z is characterized as heavy users of social platforms and oppose ‘homogeneous’ global advertising campaigns. They are much more attracted to ads that allow them to co-create or shape what happens, which is a contrast to Gens Y and X, who have a higher preference to links that have more information about the brand.
Channel preferences:
Even though Gen Z is seen to spend most of their time on digital platforms consuming data, they are also the generation that hates invasive ad formats the most. They are seen to be generally more open to outdoor and TV ads and have perfected the art of glossing over all digital advertisements that are thrown their way. Branded content is seen to be harder working than the dreaded skippable online ad formats where the art of storytelling earns it buck.
The importance of design:
Research from BD Network shows that Gen Z is known to be visual communicators, where they are best able to express their emotions through images. With a keen eye for design aesthetics, this generation is used to an on-demand world of infinite choices. They are seen to be extremely design conscious and look for brands that are able to reflect their own ‘unique’ personalities. They are quick to shut out brands that flaunt the obvious ‘stock imagery’ as not putting enough effort into its communication.
Privacy concerns to the fore:
Research by Wunderman revealed that Gen Z is the most conscious about the volumes of personal data that brands collect from them. This is the generation that expects a value exchange for what they are handing over to brands. Three out of 4 worry about information companies collect on them and are resigned to that being a necessary evil. However, this generation is savvy enough to know exactly what they want, and expect, from brands. Gen Z is saying ‘You’ve got my data. What are you going to do? Better make it efficient for me.’ For marketers, the key shift would be not about more transactions but about making those transactions easier.
As Millennials start to mature, Gen Z is the current crop of newly forming adult identities. With that comes new statements in style, tastes and trends. Of course, this also provides the legion of marketers and communications professionals a new cohort to focus their attention on.

Clients doing it in-house

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One of the big trends at the moment is client companies building their own in-house agencies, or at least taking on things they previously outsourced.
Mark Pritchard, CMO for P&G recently mapped out their plans for a DIY agency approach at Cannes. In particular, he points to digital media wastage as the main problem.
He claims… “We’re reinventing media from mass blast to mass one-to-one, we’re getting advertising from less push to more pull, we’re reinventing agency partnerships from less outsourcing to more of our people’s hands on the keyboard.”
(read more here)
This is a phenomenon that’s been growing for a while now with more and more design studios, social media, and digital marketing teams emerging in-house.
Having seen quite a few of these in action, there is no right answer. Some clients are saving costs and delivering effective work. But others are struggling for quality in what they do, and lack creative impact and strategic insight – satisfying themselves without the benefit of professional expertise.
A while ago I wrote an agency selection best practice guide for the 3Cs and ANZA called “Navigating the agency selection process” (have a look here). In it there is a section that maps out different agency/outsource models and their implications, including in-house alternatives. I recommend you have a read if you’re contemplating going in-house. And if you’re not sure, get in touch for a chat (lew.bentley@headlight.co.nz)

 

 

 

The 3 things that usually get stuffed up when it comes to communicating change

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These days most organizations seem to be locked into a never-ending spiral of change management.
By definition, change can be very disruptive to a team culture and how well it performs. It is almost always a nightmare for management.
Change can cure or kill.
If your goal is to introduce change and get employees adapt to it, there are three things that go wrong most often.
  1. Not targeting the most influential people.
  2. Using communication channels that are convenient rather than effective.
  3. Focusing on the wrong content.
Here is a brief summary of a great book on successfully communicating organizational change.
You can find more articles of interest here.

 

12 Steps to a High-Performance Campaign

With the Effies on our doorstep, it is timely to consider what goes into creating a high-performance campaign.
A few years back I did an analysis of all the campaigns over a 3-year period that won a Gold Effie for effectiveness as well as significant creative awards. Once I had identified the (surprisingly few) high performers, I interviewed the agencies and clients who had created them in order to identify insights into what made the difference.
While quality creative ideas are obviously important, the processes around creative development and nurturing a campaign are just as important. Here are the 12 steps to creating a high-performance campaign.

The 12 Steps…

1. Get the relationship right first

Consistent across the board was the insight that great campaigns come from great client:agency relationships. This creates a climate of trust and an openness within which to develop good work and effectively deal with any challenges along the way. In contrast, strained relationships or cold client:supplier relationships tend to stifle creativity and lead to compromises.

2. Avoid political interference

Great campaigns are safeguarded against the perils of organisational politics that can distort campaigns. This retains a purity of purpose for the task at hand rather than satisfying internal agendas.

3. Be open-minded

Letting campaigns take their own shape, rather than being pre-determined, gives creativity a chance. In particular, the creative process involves building something from scratch that does not exist. There are typically several interpretation steps along the way for the campaign to take shape. These steps require a leap of faith, and the more challenging the creative concept, the greater the leap required. Great campaigns tend to benefit from an open-minded approach within the context of a relationship of trust.

4. Talk first

Great campaigns do not flow from isolation. A common factor with top-performing campaigns is that there is a high degree of healthy debate about the task at hand and the environment in which the campaign needs to operate. This ensures there is a common understanding of what is required and the most appropriate way to approach the brief.

5. Get the brief right

Client briefs and agency reverse (or creative) briefs can be deceptive to write. Great briefs definitely help create better campaigns. They rise above being a bland work order by adding accuracy and potency. They define the task clearly. They provide relevant insight about the target and the market. They focus on an inspiring and creatively interesting proposition. They avoid red herrings. They frame the scope of the task accurately. Perhaps most importantly, great briefs do not try to provide the answer – thereby limiting creative interpretation. Instead, great briefs act as a powerful springboard for the creative imagination.

6. Translation

Great campaigns are never literal expressions of the task. They involve a series of translations: from the problem to the strategic insight on how to solve it; from the brief to the creative concept; from the brief and concept to the right media solution; from the creative concept to the finally produced work. At each stage the best campaigns gain further strength as value is added at each stage.

7. Emotional X-Factor is the secret ingredient

Each of the top campaigns examined had an X-Factor about them. This is a special, hard to describe creative dimension – the humour, the emotional power of the idea, the anticipation, the coolness of the technology – that made the campaign irresistible to work on and brought out the best in people throughout the development process. Campaigns without some kind of X-Factor don’t draw the same amount of passion and desire for success.

8. Alignment and connection

Great campaigns don’t sit in isolation. They present powerful concepts that seamlessly align with all relevant connection points such as sales channels, product development, and stakeholder groups.

9. Know why it works

Great campaigns tend to be well-understood in terms of how they work to influence the target. It is clear what makes them impactful. This is crucial in the refinement and evolution of campaigns over time. It helps the campaign retain its essence and avoid being diluted through ‘fiddling’. It also ensures that clients understand the strength of their campaign asset.

10. Use research wisely

The top-performing campaigns were typically developed using research-based insights up front. This helped develop work with a more subtle understanding of the target market and how to connect with them at a deep level.
The role of pre-testing concepts was generally considered less constructive in the development of campaigns due to the risk of diluting creativity.

11. Be patient

Top performing campaigns tend to have benefitted from having enough time to build their own momentum without unrealistic short-term expectations, micro-management and excessive adjustments.

12. PR

Great campaigns tend to benefit from good PR within the agency, the client organisation, and the wider marketplace. They take on a life of their own as stories of success for the business, the agency and all involved.