It’s time to communicate focused ad campaigns

Too many campaigns are three-pronged; clients, PR and agencies have their own agenda. Teamwork, focus and integration is the winning formula.

The current business model for the communications industry is leading to territorialism and to misguided, and sometimes, wrong advice being given to clients.

It’s time that communication professionals started behaving like professionals and delivering the best recommendations, regardless of short-term gain. If this means reconfiguring payment systems to ensure fees are received for advice, or to deliver payment by results, then it’s time for the industry – and its clients – to call for this transition.

The way to ensure that clients get the best advice is integrated communication planning. But there is plenty of resistance to this idea.

How anyone can reject it is beyond me. Try discussing it with anyone outside the business; ask them if they think the advertising should deliver one message, while PR delivers another and point-of-purchase material yet another.

You can be as King Canute-like as you wish to be – try to hold back the waves of change – but the brands and agencies that will be a success will be those building campaigns with a single, integrated focus.

Once that focus is agreed upon, it is paramount that the strategies used to execute it are media neutral and accountable. We have to move on from the situation where media planners recommend a sponsorship, while the public relations company argues that the only answer is PR and the advertising agency – surprise, surprise – maintains that a television ad is the best solution.

It is sometimes painful to see a campaign splashed all over the newspapers, or on posters, that has been clearly configured to give the client what it said it wanted (cheap space for instance), or to keep the ad agency happy with a big splash for its ads, with no thought as to the impact of the communication. Often the agency does not have the courage to rock the boat and advise that a message could be better delivered at the point of sale, or advise that the client would be better holding off a campaign until there is something to say that will convey a strong brand message and truly make an impact.

The best teamwork is carried out when everyone parks their egos at the door. This might sound impossibly utopian, but it is not. It just means sorting out remuneration before the project begins, being unselfish with ideas, and generous with budgets.

Before people give communication planning advice that could either make, or cost, clients millions of pounds, they should think carefully about the long-term impact of that advice. This is a serious business. Mistakes can cost money, but more importantly, perhaps, they can cost people their jobs.

As an industry, we must start thinking hard about our priorities. Let’s make 2002 a year of change: change how we think about long-term priorities and take pride in our expertise.

Sue Unerman is director of strategic solutions and Real World Planning at MediaCom

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