Lettuce Talk About Advertising and PR Agencies

It’s easy to accept something for what it is at face value. A tree is something to climb on. A cactus makes a great desk plant. A flower is something to pick that also happens to smell nice. And yet, there is so much more beneath the surface. A flowering plant is more than its petals; there are roots, a stem, leaves.

The same can be said for advertising and public relations agencies. At face value, they design banner ads, make TV commercials and write press releases. Like most things, however, there is much more going on behind the scenes.

As someone who works in the industry, I find it easy to focus solely on analytics. Our clients find it easy to focus on the department that they primarily interact with, most likely the account services team. But, like a flowering plant is more than its parts, an agency is more than just one department. To understand this, it’s important to comprehend the different functions performed by each department within an agency. For the sake of a metaphor, we can define departments and their functions with botany!

Green sprout growing from seed in organic soil

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Who Did It Better? The Best and Worst Experiential Marketing Events at SXSW

SXSW Interactive is more branded today than it has ever been in the past. As a marketer, I was like a kid in a candy shop last month as I wandered the streets of Austin, Texas, trying to absorb all the marketing around me. It seemed as though everything at SXSW was branded in some form or fashion, and, while much of this branding came in the form of typical guerilla marketing or free swag, there were a few brands that had stepped up their game and took their SXSW marketing to a whole new level.

Samsung_Studio_LoungeBrands took over restaurants, bars and event spaces around the convention center, and some even built temporary structures for the week. The brands completely transformed these venues into immersive experiences for SXSW Interactive attendees with everything from product showcases to cocktail bars and buffets to lounges with stunning views of the Austin skyline. The brands did everything from repainting the interiors and exteriors to replacing the existing furniture and walls with their own. Most even replaced the name on the side of the building with their own logos and names. Marketers did all of this to facilitate innovative and memorable experiences for SXSWi attendees and to engage thought leaders in a live, experiential ways.

After visiting many of these, I could clearly see which were truly engaging with the attendees and creative positive associations between the consumers and the brand and which were missing the target. It all came down to whether the brand stayed true to itself and how well its execution aligned with the event. The two best examples were IBM and Samsung.

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Breeding Success at SXSW

sxsw-2016-platinumlogoHaving completed its 21st year, the SXSW Interactive conference has been around almost as long as M/C/C has, and that is impressive. Its hundreds of panel sessions cover a variety of topics from future trends to marketing and branding. For a full-service digital marketing communications agency like ours, this conference is a great source for insights, ideas and inspiration as well as validation for our employees.

Our agency has always been on top of new media, technologies and applications. We have proactive relationships with our clients, and they expect us to continually recommend new ideas and tactics that will improve their efficiencies and increase their ROI.

At M/C/C, we’re always looking for seminars and conferences that add value. Our employees get new ideas, and we pass those onto our clients through enhanced services and/or increased performance.

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When It Comes to Successful Creative, It’s a Numbers Game

“So, what exactly are your career goals as a marketer?”

“I want to work in the creative department at a digital agency and eventually become Creative Director.”

financial worker analyzing business data and working with tablet

I have heard this conversation more times that I can count. It seems like everyone from freshmen in their principles of marketing course to soon-to-be graduates on the job hunt, and even folks who have been working in the industry for years, all seem to share the dream of one day landing one of those coveted creative positions. This is likely the result of the romanticized portrayal of advertising creatives in pop culture (Mad Men, anyone?). Maybe it’s just that creative is the most visible or tangible part of an agency. Or maybe it’s just that creative has long been considered the lifeblood of an agency or that a shop’s success is determined by the quality and creativity its ads.

But that’s no longer exclusively true.

Analytics. Big data. Data visualization. These are the current buzzwords thrown around conferences and advertising blogs and rightfully so. They are the signposts of the next phase in the digital age of marketing and with the next phase comes a new champion to fight for the dreams and aspirations of the next generation of advertisers. Please welcome to the ring, The Analytics Team.

As clients start prioritizing an agency’s ability to glean valuable and actionable insights from the excessive amounts of data available, as well as their ability to put a numerical value on the effectiveness of advertising campaigns and ROI, agencies are beginning to prioritize data analysts and the analytics team. In a survey of corporate marketers, 43 percent of respondents claimed to have “unmet business needs,” specifically with “measuring and reporting the business impact and ROI of marketing and advertising programs.” Another 28 percent lacked “taking advantage of Big Data opportunities.” Both of these needs can be satisfied by a good analytics team.

In Jim Terry’s blog post about the challenges CMOs are facing in the world of Big Data, he explains that determining what to measure, how to measure it, turning information into insights and the ability to act on the insights are what CMOs currently must overcome. A solid analytics team would be more than qualified to achieve this goal.

While demand for these roles at agencies and in-house marketing teams has been steadily growing over the course of the digital age, the supply side is just beginning to catch on. And with such a deficit in qualified candidates, the role is about to get much more enticing for advertisers and marketers everywhere.

Salaries for agency employees in analyst and data scientist roles are up to 30 percent higher than other agency positions at similar levels, according to AdAge. Additionally, some universities have started to offer marketing courses and even entire marketing degrees tailored specifically to digital media, analytics, data mining and data visualization. These factors open the door wider for analytics roles at ad agencies and show the next generation of advertisers what the future looks like.

As more professionals combine analytical skills with advertising backgrounds and education, more creative agencies will be able to leverage the skill sets of these employees. Now creative campaigns have an increased chance at success. Better A/B testing, stronger analysis of performance and insight into consumer behavior are a few of the many benefits the creative team and the rest of the agency can use to improve performance and better serve the client.

As part of a relatively new facet of advertising, the future of this role is still undetermined. The only certainty? There’s a new crop of aspiring advertisers, all equipped with an excitement for report season like you’ve never seen before. And even though the job responsibilities change just about as fast as you can write a job posting, isn’t the fluidity and promise of the job never being stagnant why we all got into advertising to begin with?

Five Favorite M/C/C Moments From 2015

As I look back on the year 2015, five favorite M/C/C moments come to mind. Here they are.

DFW AMA Marketer of the Year Award
We were awarded the 2015 DFW AMA Marketer of the Year honor in the “New Product/Service Launch” category. Our client, ReTrak by Emerge Technologies, created headphones for children branded Animalz. Designed for little ears, the headphones feature volume-limiting technology, fun animal designs and a retractable cord that makes clean up a breeze and tantrums about tangled wires nearly obsolete.

The pressure was on for a new product without brand recognition in a crowded marketplace at the busiest time of the year. Not only did Animalz have little brand recognition, neither did its parent company, so major retailers were concerned about selling the headphones to consumers. In the fall of 2014, the company approached M/C/C about launching its new lovable, retractable headphones. M/C/C’s public relations and creative teams developed a comprehensive integrated blogger outreach and media relations program that would best target the main buyer of the headphones—moms.

M/C/C garnered coverage for Animalz that reached more than 210 million readers/visitors. We secured 79 blog posts, which generated 600,000+ impressions and engaged consumers through almost 7,000 trackable social actions. Media outlets such as The Boston Globe, Newsday and its sister TV station, News 12 Long Island, picked up the Animalz story. M/C/C’s outreach even influenced CNET to include the headphones in a stocking stuffers video segment. Additionally, nearly 30 percent of the blogs and a variety of top tier media sites including CBS News, The Huffington Post and Yahoo featured the product video created by M/C/C.

Overall, Animalz sales increased 1,755 percent with more than half of the sales coming through the three-month blogger and media relations campaign period.

CyrusOne Chooses M/C/C
Also in 2015, CyrusOne selected M/C/C for planning and management of the global data center company’s integrated media strategies and implementation. Scott Brueggeman, CMO of CyrusOne, commented that M/C/C was an easy decision because of our track record as well as our experience. He went on to say that M/C/C’s focus on measurable and actionable results gives his organization complete confidence in our ability to help CyrusOne deliver the next successful chapter in the company’s marketing and advertising efforts.

FB - San Antonio I Data Center

The results have been strong and have continued to grow since our relationship began in July, indicating 2016 should truly be exciting.

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The Most Unexpected Thing Yule See this Christmas

Indulge me while I run through my M/C/C bucket list. Let’s see…

Create a stop-motion production using Post-its and office supplies? Check.
Build a 4,287-piece Lego set? Check.
Work with my 5-year-old on an award-winning project? Check.
Reimagine a scene from “The Shawshank Redemption”? Check.
Film a comedy-slash-horror spoof with Santa Claus as the unexpected antagonist?

Santa Sleigher Movie PosterAt M/C/C, our mantra is “Living the Unexpected.” It’s a phrase embedded in our agency culture. We’re the fish swimming upstream. We eat snow cones in December. We wear white after Labor Day. And, on occasion, we turn Santa into a not-so-jolly soul hell-bent on righting the injustices of being obnoxiously nice. We call our annual holiday greeting “Santa Sleigher.” 

I’m not going to sugarcoat this Christmas cookie for you. Santa Sleigher is polarizing. Some will love it, while others will sharpen their pitchforks and light their torches. But before you storm the M/C/C castle, know this: for a three-week production window, laughter filled these halls. We laughed as Todd Brashear ran around the office in full Claus regalia. We laughed as our old friend Peter Nutovsky returned for a small cannibalistic cameo. We laughed as we lowered our tree on top of sweet Ellen. And we all laughed at our not-quite-average acting ability.

“Santa Sleigher” isn’t for everyone (especially not my 5-year-old), but it’s definitely for us. Warmest wishes from everyone at M/C/C!

 

Not Just Another Pretty Average Face

Competing for new customers is tough these days. To stand out in your market, you need to create a unique advantage in virtually every facet of your marketing mix – in your products, your distribution, your pricing structure and, not the least, in your promotion. Simply doing the same as your competitors just won’t cut it.

Businessman Computer Planning Marketing Brand Concept

Oftentimes, clients ask us about the value of marketing or, more specifically, the value of unexpected communications. In my former life as a copywriter, I’d make the case that every brand needs to create a unique look and voice that stands above the crowd. But as a creative director, I understand now that when clients talk about value, they’re mostly concerned about the bottom line. What’s THAT value? How much will our mind-blowing idea for a website or online banner increase their sales?

For starters, I’d say it’s impossible to try to ascribe revenue to one particular piece of marketing communications. For instance, launching a revolutionary e-commerce site would likely impact a client’s sales revenue, but attributing all success to that site would be shortsighted. What about the email campaign that likely supported the launch of the site? Or any pay-per-click campaign that drove traffic to the site? Or inside salespeople referring customers to the site? Or every piece of communications the company ever produced that created an impression in the market? The real value of marketing communications must be accounted for holistically, not just in one project or even in one campaign.

That disclaimer aside, there are a number of ways that we can demonstrate how our creative communications create real, financial value for our clients. I’ll cover three of them briefly, just to share some real-world client experiences. So the next time you’re in budget talks, fighting for a fair share for marketing or the subject of an employee review needing to demonstrate what you accomplished last year, be sure to keep these in mind. The math around marketing communications is not nearly as fuzzy as it used to be. It has real value – in dollars and cents that you and your agency can maximize together.

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Practicing What We Preach: Leveraging Research To Drive Business Forward

1015-3If you know one thing about M/C/C, it’s probably the value we put on research. Understanding internal and market perspectives and the gaps between them are invaluable to developing a marketing strategy. So, it’s only appropriate – natural, really – that M/C/C performs some research on itself from time to time. Day in and day out, we need to deliver against our clients’ business objectives and their personal expectations of us, their marketing agency.

Over the last couple of months, M/C/C embarked on its own research study to reset its understanding on what marketers – our clients and prospects – find important and value most. Understanding this perspective should help keep our existing relationships healthy and impact our approach to reaching and securing new clients.

M/C/C polled marketers on a variety of subjects, such as:

  • Importance and priority of decision-making attributes
  • Current pain points and marketing issues
  • Qualities of an ideal agency

The results shouldn’t really whip our heads back. Hopefully the results will just help confirm what we already believe to be true and be in sync with our current approach to managing and building new relationships. Let’s take a look.

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The Influence of Market Research on Communications

Valor Business Solutions was prepared to launch their service offerings in a number of cities. They were going to make a major investment in marketing to promote their services, but there was a tremendous amount of trepidation among their senior management. There were mixed opinions and views about what their messaging should be to the marketplace.

We made the recommendation to Valor’s management that we develop a market research program internally and externally to clearly understand the purchase criteria among their buyers and prospects prior to market launch. This would solidify the company’s direction, prioritize their service offerings in the decision-making process and assist in creating consensus within the management team.  Everyone would feel confident that their external communications programs would be on message and on target, while the financial investment would reap a huge return.

The research program was approved and the rest is history. Valor became a very successful company over the next few years and was acquired as a result.

This is one of many examples that demonstrate how significantly market research influences your company’s communications programs and assists in creating consensus within your organization.

DeathtoStock_Creative Community3

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Successfully Navigating Change in an Agency-Client Relationship: M/C/C and Harris CapRock

Client Agency Relationship When M/C/C began working with IWL (the predecessor to CapRock) in 1994, a gallon of gas cost $1.09, Tonya Harding’s attack on Nancy Kerrigan dominated the news and Netscape Navigator was the market leader for browsing the Web. It is 21 years later, and we’re still the Agency of Record for what is now known as Harris CapRock.  Our relationship with the brand has weathered reverse mergers, purchases, spin outs and more acquisitions. There’s never been a dull moment and it has been a fun ride.

In the beginning of our partnership, IWL’s business was focused on providing communications services to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. They held a strong position in the market and caught the attention of CapRock Communications, a Dallas-based telecommunications company that completed a reverse merger with IWL in 1998 to take the company public. M/C/C’s role expanded quickly beyond marketing offshore services to marketing CapRock’s full suite of services to small businesses and other carriers throughout the Southwest United States. In 2001, CapRock was purchased by McLeod and M/C/C worked with them during the transition. In 2002, the “brand” CapRock was purchased by private investors and relaunched as a satellite communications provider in 2003. M/C/C was called on to lead the communications effort. The company expanded aggressively beyond oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico into commercial shipping, defense, cruise, mining and construction throughout the world. They grew to be the undisputed leader in the satellite communications industry and were purchased in 2010 by Harris Corporation, currently operating as a division of the company.

As to be expected, the ongoing state of change led to some significant marketing challenges. With each management change came a new set of objectives, priorities and expectations. Some placed a higher priority on the role of marketing than did others and the flux changed the way the brand was viewed in the market.

Change has been the only constant in our relationship with Harris CapRock – change in the company, its marketing priorities and leaders; change in our relationship and focus for the brand. Along with the internal changes at Harris CapRock, the marketing landscape was evolving quickly. At the outset of our relationship, we produced print ads, rudimentary websites and brochures with data sheets. Today, our advertising is exclusively digital. We’re producing interactive sales demos and optimizing everything in real time.

Our continued and successful relationship with Harris CapRock is one we’re proud of and it can be attributed to four critical factors.

Providing Value. Our focus with CapRock from the beginning was to not attach ourselves to executives or employees but focus on the business and its objectives. We’ve enjoyed great relationships with our contacts over the years (and still keep in contact with most of them), but we’ve maintained a drive to deliver real business results. That was true 21 years ago, and it’s still true today. Relationships without results don’t create value for the business. Continue reading “Successfully Navigating Change in an Agency-Client Relationship: M/C/C and Harris CapRock” »