Marketing factions must build better relations

Advertising agencies don’t appreciate the work of sales promotions agencies and vice-versa. The fact is both sides could benefit from a better understanding of the other’s function, says Ellis Watson. Ellis Watson is marketing director of News

In newspapers you find yourself working with a lot of third parties in joint promotions. I also find myself entertaining the usual sprawling entourage of sales promotion, public relations and advertising agencies that third parties seem to surround themselves with.

Recently, with one such third party, I witnessed the kind of irrational hatred of groups different to you that I believed had ceased to exist with the release of Nelson Mandela.

The advertising agency decided its branding work was “ruined” by the client’s insistence on the inclusion of a sales promotion message.

The sales promotion agency for its part decided that “the creative idea was a waste of time”. It believed that the promotion was sufficiently strong to sell the product on its own.

The sad fact is that neither party could ever really be qualified to comment as they are both essentially ignorant of each other’s area.

Ask your average advertising agency Giles or Tabby what sales promotion is all about and they will probably tell you it’s common, tacky and that it has all those little terms and conditions that get in the way of nice, “proper” advertising.

Pop in and visit Gary or Tracy from sales promotion land and they will probably tell you advertising is really all about pretension and long lunches. When sales promotion and common sense rules the world everything will have a pack-flash, band-on or price sticker on it.

Sales promotion, on the ten per cent of occasions where good ideas are employed, needs to understand that if it borrows – or even better if the idea originates – from the brand imagery of its subject, then its efficiency goes through the roof. In the same way, sales promotion itself can be made to speak volumes about a brand in a way that more traditional advertising briefs cannot.

The truth is that many a good sales promotion has been killed by ineffective advertising and, conversely, many a brand image has been tainted by an irrelevant or ineffective sales promotion. This is usually the case where one side does not understand the other and they do not work together.

Effective sales promotion is only as good as the communication that endeavours to sell it. There is enough bad advertising in circulation to support the clients’ view that the creators of the sales promotion idea are those best able to advertise it.

To be fair, there is just as much bad sales promotion work that has been put together by entrepreneurial advertising agencies stretching into new areas.

I’m not saying one shouldn’t cross the line, it’s just I’ve yet to see many ad agencies win an Institute of Sales Promotions gold or a sales promotion agency with a collection of advertising effectiveness awards.

As you read this, ask yourself if you really understand all aspects of the marketing mix in enough detail. Come on, how many times have you avoided embarrassing yourself by exposing your ignorance on “the other side of the line”? How many times have you dismissed an argument about the “bit you don’t do” without really understanding what it is?

If I’m right then go and do something about it – find out more. If you don’t, the other side of the line may just get there first.

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