The crossover from agency to client side is not uncommon and as a result marketing directors are increasingly coming to the table armed with as much media information and knowledge as their advertising counterparts.
But while these clients may have information about above-the-line media and even direct marketing, it is unlikely that they have any depth of knowledge when it comes to point of purchase (PoP). To expect a marketing director to know much about the various print options available for an in-store display would be the same as expecting them to know how to do a casting for a TV commercial.
It is no longer the case that the small change from the budget gets spent on in-store displays to ensure total exposure. PoP is now expected not only to work much harder but also to contribute significantly to brand positioning. Although PoP practitioners acknowledge that they are getting a greater share of the marketing budget, they also say there are massive knowledge gaps on the part of many clients that can often result in ineffective and sloppy campaigns.
Getting the right brief
Charles Kessler is chairman of Kesslers International. His, and many others’, experience is that the main weakness on the client side is in the quality of the briefs. “Marketers are often intelligent and experienced and yet the quality of the briefs we get varies enormously,” he says. “The brief has be right from the start. If the client gives us a verbal brief, we immediately write back saying what we think it is they want.”
What is most astonishing about this comment is the fact that PoP practitioners even talk about getting verbal briefs – something that would never happen in other marketing disciplines.
As a result, Kesslers International has drawn up a document for clients making sure all the right questions are asked and answered for a campaign. “People who want the right result don’t always ask the right questions,” says Kessler.
And verbal briefs have no place in PoP campaigns that are increasingly international. Says Kessler: “Most retailers have very specific dimensional demands so it is crucial to make units that fit all the measures across a number of retailers and increasingly across a number of countries.”
It is the in-store detail that Pierhouse focuses on and holds details on a database for its clients of the various sizes and shapes that are available in different stores, right down to individual branches. Marketing director Geoff Clinton says: “The old maxim goes that retail is about detail. But because point of purchase is only one element of any campaign, those details are often overlooked. Marketing directors have rarely thought in detail about the size and structure of a display – they usually have plenty of other things to think about. But it is this lack of understanding about what happens when a piece of work arrives at a store that is a real weakness. In our experience we have found that a large percentage of displays that arrive at stores cannot be used just because they are the wrong size. But when clients understand what happens in-store and make sure they get that side of things right, compliance levels are much higher. The key to getting point of purchase right is ensuring you follow it through to the store experience,” says Clinton.
In fact, some point of purchase practitioners seem to be going out of their way to ensure that clients get the education they need for this particular discipline. North-east-based Simpson Group set up the Influence Academy in September last year – a course which provides clients with techniques to help them tighten up the briefing process and improve efficiency.
Managing director Mark Simpson explains: “Printing, for example, has changed so much during the past few years that it is hard for marketing departments to keep up to date. The range of materials as well as the methods of production can be very confusing. And your decision will be based on many factors including the lifecycle of the point of sale programme, how it is to be displayed and where and how it will be replaced. It is far more complicated to brief PoP jobs than standard print jobs.”
But not everyone agrees that clients need to know about the details of print. Cristna Matassi, general manager at Blackjack comments: “I don’t think that clients necessarily need to understand the print and design process of PoP production. We are the experts in design and development and therefore should be advising on these processes.
“There are certain essentials that need to be supplied like target audience, target footfall, budget and objectives. With this information we can design and build the most suitable and effective PoP product to provide the target audience with its desired experience.”
However, there is a sense that if clients want to get the most out of PoP they need to be taking it more seriously and filling in the knowledge gaps. Michael Sheridan is chairman of design agency Sheridan & Co that has set up an innovations division to look at the future developments in the PoP industry. Says Sheridan: “More often than not, above-the-line communication takes precedent. Design agencies have to work with individuals who are less in touch with the brand equity and marketing strategy and more concerned with and getting the PoP material installed as quickly as possible. A deeper understanding and commitment to forming a strategic relationship with your design agency is what generates innovative and effective PoP solutions.”