Saturday, March 21, 2009

Advertising in a Swimsuit: What's right and what's wrong with the ADDY® Awards

(This article first appeared in GSA Business in 2002 and generated quite a bit of controversy. I thought readers might enjoy seeing it again.)

On February 15, the Greenville Advertising Club hosts its annual ADDY® Awards show at the Hyatt. If you have anything to do with advertising or marketing in your job, you’re probably going to this event. There are not many events that I attend in a year that are as much fun as ADDY Night.

The American Advertising Federation (AAF) co-sponsors the local contests with local advertising clubs throughout the country. According to the AAF, the ADDY Awards competition is "the industry's largest and most representative competition for creative excellence." Before you assume that I take advertising awards seriously, let me say that I don’t. With the exception of the Effie® Awards, a national competition that evaluates advertising on the basis of increased sales, I don't put much stock in creative contests or the awards they generate. If the evaluation isn't based on whether the work made the cash register ring, the award show is nothing more than a beauty contest. Advertising should produce sales. If that's not the primary criterion for any evaluation, why bother?

But that's not the point, says Laveda Miles, GAC President (and staunch defender of our creative brethren), "The ADDY competition is a creative contest. Can't we for one night let the folks who actually create the ads be judged and rewarded by their peers? After all, advertising is an art. The competition is not intended to be another Effies."

Jim Henderson used to say, "It's not creative unless it sells." And there are still a few of us who view the creative product as only a selling function of advertising. Any other way of looking at it is self-indulgent, irresponsible and wastes the client's money. Should there be a desire to evaluate ADDY submissions based on whether the creative was effective, we’d need another approach to the selection of the judges who evaluate the work. As it stands now, ADDY judges almost always come exclusively from the advertising industry’s creative side of the business. Rarely are clients, marketing researchers, account planners or ad agency account executives added to the mix of ADDY judges. Yet each of these disciplines contributes to the development of advertising in the Real World.

Unfortunately, what the ADDY Awards suggest is that it's OK to evaluate ads solely on their “creativity,” as if creativity could have another goal other than selling products and services. This kind of thinking takes us down the path of applauding work that may be outrageous, clever, and entertaining, but not necessarily effective. The advertising community undermines its credibility with the business community as a whole with this “let’s pretend” approach to a serious business discipline. Sales effectiveness should be the only criteria by which we evaluate each advertisement in the ADDYs and in our daily jobs.

So, what's good about ADDY Night? Everything else. It brings out virtually everyone associated with marketing and communications in the Upstate and western North Carolina. The few who don't show probably can't attend because of court-ordered curfews. But most will make it. They love the night as much as I do. They'll party hard and generate an enormous amount of good-natured competition for our industry. What most attendees don't know is that ADDY Night is the largest single revenue generator for the Greenville Advertising Club. I've seen the club operate in the red until ADDY Night, when a good turn-out pushes it back into the black.

It's important that the Greenville Ad Club not lose money. GAC sponsors two paid internships each summer for deserving college students. In addition, GAC adopts one non-profit organization each year for a pro bono ad campaign. A good ADDY Night pays for some of these important efforts.

There is another good thing about the ADDYs. It is a contest that allows underdogs to look as good as their larger rivals. Last year, Copia Design, a two-person design firm in Greenville, won 5 ADDYs and 3 Citations for their work, garnering more awards than many larger agencies. Susan Kines GAC ADDY Judging Chair, maintains "The ADDYs may be the only opportunity for a small agency to strut its stuff."

And strut they will. Attendees will be decked out, the awards will gleam and the egos soar. But let's not forget what Jim Henderson said. "It's not creative unless it sells."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Are the Four P's of Marketing Still Relevant?

David Meerman Scott is a business author I think has some wisdom to share. His book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, had some great ideas to make organizations more successful in their use of the Internet. I liked his book so much that I subscribe to his blog. One of his most recent blogs raised the question of whether the Four P's of marketing are still relevant and Mr. Scott does not think they are. I would like to offer a different point of view.

As students of marketing know, the four P's are product, price, place (of distribution) and promotion. Let's discuss each of them and draw our own conclusions as to their relevance. And, I think it important to acknowledge that each of the four P's is a strategic discussion in itself. Following that, I would like to introduce a fifth P for your consideration.

The Product (or service) any organization decides to market needs to be thought out significantly before introduction. What buyer needs will it meet to ensure success? How will it differ from competitive products already available? Will it be better or merely different? How will it be formulated or delivered to the market? Will it developed in-house or will the product be manufactured by someone else and then sold under another brand name? What will be the level of quality of this product? Acceptable or of the highest level possible? This is important because the pricing structure will be influenced by decisions about product or service quality. I can go on and on, but I hope I make the point that no one can market any product or service successfully without thinking about issues like this.

A pricing discussion must closely follow the product discussion. Product quality and features will dramatically impact the pricing model. An organization cannot introduce a superior product without it usually impacting their pricing substantially. They must decide what the market can bear from a pricing standpoint and make their product decisions based on that. Or, make the pricing decision based on the product quality level they want to introduce. Either way, they must carefully consider the ramifications of both issues and their inter-relatedness.

The decision about Place (of distribution) is also a critical component of any marketing plan. Will the product only be available in a traditional bricks and mortar retail location or will it also be available via the Internet? Most consumer businesses now have a web component to their marketing and any marketer would have to give me a darn good reason why they did not want to market the product via the Internet before I advised against it. And even with the explosive growth of brands available on the Internet, we marketers still have to be thinking about a variety of distribution channels. But let's just think retail bricks and mortar for a moment. Will the product be available at only one location or several? Where would those locations be? Would network marketing also be utilized? Would the distribution of the product include wholesalers? More complex distribution channels? Somebody better be thinking about this stuff!

In their book, The Discipline Of Market Leaders, Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema discuss three different value disciplines one of which every organization should adopt if they are to truly be successful. Those are 1) operational excellence, which usually leads to a low price strategy because the organization can produce the item for a lower cost; 2) a product leadership, which will offer a product that is superior to others in the marketplace; and 3) customer intimacy, which will deliver what specific customers want. While not exactly on target, the book closely mirrors the first three P's of the marketing mix.

Now to Promotion, the fourth P. I have never heard it discussed this way but I think it important to understand that Promotion is somewhat independent of the first three mix variables. What I mean by this is that Promotion, the fourth P, must promote the other three P's of marketing. And not just promote them, but every brand strategy should include a decision about which of the first three P's is most important. Thus, every strong brand will emphasize one of the P's more than any other (product superiority vs. price/value vs. availability/convenience) and all the fourth P (promotion) will do is promote that P to the greatest extent possible.
Promotion, the fourth P, must promote the other three P's of marketing.

To those who believe that because the Internet is now upon us, everything has changed with regard to marketing's four P's or even with just Promotion, take another look. Everything has not changed. A lot has changed, particularly in the area of marketing tactics, and we have a lot more opportunities (and challenges) with the Internet and other new media, especially in the area of promotion. But to say that everything has changed in marketing and that what any of us knew 10-15 years ago is of no value, throws the baby out with the bath water.

Before I let you go, one final point. I think there is a fifth P that should never be omitted in a discussion of the four P's of marketing. It is the most important P and I have never seen this P discussed with the other four P's. I maintain that the fifth P is the Prospect for the sale. We must always put that prospect in the center of this discussion. What does the prospect want from us? What is their need that we are trying to fill?

If we can keep the Prospect in mind, in the center of this intellectual debate (and in our marketing planning), we will ensure that our decisions regarding the other four P's have the best chance of being successful.

Thanks for reading. More to come.