Marketing campaigns gone bad
By Ed Moed
Over lunch last week, two senior advertising agency executives grumbled to me about the scores of
marketing campaigns that typically fail. One guy mentioned how skeptical he is now when any new client claims “he is committing to spend X million over two years to build a brand.” The other said (quite frankly) that at least half of his firm’s clients never follow through to give these programs a long term chance to succeed.
I mentioned that the problem isn’t quite that acute at Peppercom. But, we all agreed that there is just too much waste of $$$ overall among corporate marketers. I’m sure agencies have their fair share of the blame. But, for the purposes of this post, here are five key client reasons that were bantered about at lunch as to why many marketing programs never see the light of day.
1) Falling in love with creative/ideas, without a sound strategy – Some clients fall in love with creative concepts from ad agencies long before they do the necessary checks and balances to ensure that the campaign actually reinforces the overall business or marketing strategy. While public relations creative surely isn’t as glamorous, I have watched many a client or prospect swoon over a “big idea” before the same reality check is ever made. Clearly, the agency needs to be a responsible partner in this endeavor. The problem is that too often strategies are loose (to begin with) and often change mid way through campaigns as the client receives new direction from his management, or as his business shifts.
The key take away from this problem is that these campaigns cost lots of money. And, they also serve to start building visibility and a new image (which is hard to undo.) While strategies can always change, it’s critical to articulate and agree upon strong ones form the onset before creative is ever developed and implemented.
2) Too many cooks in the kitchen – We laughed at lunch, discussing the outlandish stories of which client took the most time to get a program approved because it had so many internal political touch points. My friend from a large, global agency took the prize with his story that one client had to literally get sign off from 65 internal executives before a direct marketing campaign could be launched. No surprise, the Internet campaign went live nine months late.
Everyone understands that corporate marketers need to get important buy in before spending the company’s $$$. The question becomes: How many cooks should be allowed in this kitchen? Some of the most politically savvy clients I’ve worked with have figured out ways to streamline this process by having their boss (or CEO) offer a shortened list of who needs to have a real say versus the majority who should only be copied as an FYI.
3) Marketing isn’t connected to the business goal – Yes, it happens sometimes. Marketers may have all the best intentions, but once the ad campaign, or PR thought leadership program is in the works, no real connection to sales, employee recruitment (or whatever the goal is) has been established. After six months (or so), business leaders don’t see any real progress in achieving the goal they care about and they end or lessen the campaign.
Part of the upfront strategy (which needs to be followed) should ensure that the marketing program can directly impact some goal. That needs to be followed religiously.
4) Did we move the needle? – I’m still amazed at the amount of $$$ that is spent without a real measurement program in place to see if it worked. I won’t spend too much time here (because it’s what I write about so often), but as long as data can be tracked, all campaigns can be measured against core goals. When they aren’t, business leaders feel that money has been wasted and programs are canned.
5) Management gets queasy, client backs down – Finally, when any or all of the four points above happen, there is a good chance that someone in management will question the viability of the program. Many times, they should. Because marketers are often seen as a cost versus a strategic means to increase corporate value, they have little authority to push back. That’s one big reason why, on average, CMOs have very little tenure these days (I think it’s something like 17 months at any one company.)
As my partner referenced in a blog last week, Jeff Immelt believes that PR (and marketing executives) need to learn more about business/finance to be respected among the management rank and file. Until that happens, marketers will continue to be viewed as subservient within the corporate world.