B2B Advertising

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I am about to piss off 1,200 CEOs. Or I will if any of the participants in the “2013 Global Marketing Effectiveness” online survey read this blog. A short article in BtoB Magazine summarizes the results of that study with a gut-punch headline reporting that “78% of CEOs say ad agencies not performance-driven enough.”

But first some advice to ad agency CEOs — get off your asses and start educating prospects and clients what it is that we do. I know you are already spread thinner than private label peanut butter, but prepare to add proselytizing about the power of advertising (not just your agency’s credentials) to that daily to-do list. Advertising is the business of great ideas. Ideas that stop people in their tracks. Ideas that inspire people to take action (including making purchases). Ideas that build brand loyalty. Ideas that cause other shops to subsequently copy and ultimately water down what was original and ground-breaking. Ideas that often scare C-level execs looking for immediate results. Clearly, when 936 CEOs (or 78% of 1,200 for those CEOs who think agency people can’t quantify) believe our business does not focus on generating quantifiable business results, we all have our work cut out for us.

The survey went on to add that 76% of respondents believe agencies are not business-pragmatic enough, 74% think agencies are disconnected from short and medium-term business realities, and 72% say agencies are not as data and science-driven as expected. To that I would add 87% of the same CEOs believe agencies are as worthless as chewing gum (or worse) on the bottom of their shoes. The study noted that the 1,200 CEOs represented small, medium, and large companies globally. So, it doesn’t matter whether they answer to a board and investors or to themselves as entrepreneurs, these CEOs don’t believe agencies have anything much of value to bring to the table. What would John Wanamaker say, who recognized that 50% of his advertising budget was wasted but was satisfied because the other 50% was working wonders?

Don Draper would answer a call for performance results with storyboards that tell stories.

Don Draper would answer a call for performance results with storyboards that tell stories.

More importantly, what would MadMen’s Don Draper do? I think he would turn the tables and ask tough questions of today’s CEOs. Clearly, we are living in the age of data and with so much of it at their disposal, CEOs have become know-it-alls. Miserly, risk-averse, short-sighted, attention-deficit, know-it-alls. Here is a list of additional questions that the Fournaise Marketing Group might have added  to their survey if Don Draper had gotten his hands on it.

Have you ever truly partnered with an agency before? Explained what your unique business challenges are, helped educate them about your business and industry and competitors, and made them an integral part of your team?

Do you realize that if you devalue marketing and entrust it to junior people inside your own company, who parcel out parts and projects to a variety of firms, your branding, corporate identity, and overall messaging will likely suffer and deliver sub-par results?

Can you chart a direct correlation between how little you budget toward branding, marketing, advertising, and PR and how flat sales are?

Are you satisfied that your marketing content and materials look and read like your competitors’ and do you expect commoditization or would you yourself prefer to be excited by on-target creative work that elevates your brand?

How well do you know your own prospects and customers? Are you capable of putting yourself in their skins or do you believe that they will naturally gravitate to the greatness of your products and services? And become aware of them through osmosis (thought I’d throw in a gratuitous science term)?

Do you recognize how truly fragmented the media universe is today? How few shared experiences remain out there from a mass audience standpoint? How much power has shifted to purchasers and how critical it is to hire the best communications people you can find to build awareness, communicate your messaging, your unique selling propositions, and your overall brand value to them?

Can you truly appreciate why the world of advertising is characterized by mad men? Creative geniuses who don’t fit into MBA textbooks? Graphic artists and videographers who can tell your story visually, compellingly, and uniquely? Agency types who willingly work long uncompensated hours because they appreciate clients who put their faith in them?

Are you willing to settle for mediocrity and short-term blips in profits because striving for greatness is scary and carries with it greater public attention and pain in the event of failure?

Does your company’s current advertising/branding/marketing carry your stamp or is it legacy work whose coattails you are riding on?

Are you the market share leader in all of your markets? Any of your markets? Are you a follower of competitors in your marketing efforts or do you blaze your own trails?

Do you honestly believe that most agencies don’t want to deliver performance? What is more important to you, the ability to measure the results of every expenditure or to be surprised and excited by creative that no one saw coming?

What are you going to do with all that additional data? Will it pay for an expansion of your business? Will it convince you that cutting more costs and staff was the right thing to do? Are you constantly checking your smartphone in today’s meeting because someone is telling you something that truly rocks your world or are you just bored?

Are you like 78% of the CEOs out there and the world of advertising makes you uncomfortable because it doesn’t fit easily into a spreadsheet? Where are the visionary entrepreneurial CEOs of other eras who built great products and understood they still needed great advertising and they insisted upon it?

Last one I can truly put in that category was Steve Jobs. Do you want to be like him?

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Reed Elsevier is closing 23 B2B titles, including these well-known brands.

Reed Elsevier is closing 23 B2B titles, including these well-known brands.

Last week ended with some very sad B2B marketing industry news — Reed Elsevier is shuttering 23 of its trade publishing titles, some of them among the best-known brands in the business.
Here is a link to the story:

http://www.btobonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100416/MEDIABUSINESS/100419932/1078/newsletter011http://www.btobonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100416/MEDIABUSINESS/100419932/1078/newsletter011

Here is a list of the 23 publications closing down April 30:
1. Construction Equipment, 2. Graphic Arts Monthly, 3. Modern Materials Handling, 4. Plant Engineering, 5. Professional Builder, 6. Purchasing, 7. Restaurants & Institutions, 8. Tradeshow Week, 9. Building Design+Construction, 10. Chain Leader, 11. Construction Bulletin, 12. Consulting-Specifying Engineer, 13. Control Engineering, 14. Converting, 15. Foodservice Equipment & Supplies, 16. Graphic Arts Blue Book, 17. HOTELS, 18. Logistics Management, 19. Material Handling Product News, 20. Professional Remodeler, 21. Semiconductor International, 22. Spec Check, and 23. Supply Chain Management Review.

This news comes as a surprise because Reed had been able to sell some other significant titles in recent months, including Packaging Digest, Design News, Interior Design, and Publishers Weekly. The fact that the publisher has been shopping so many other books, and unsuccessfully at that, indicates the general overall unhealthy state of the media business. Rivals who might be tempted to blend these brands and circulation bases into their operations are probably cash-strapped themselves.
This is not another story about the continuing decline of print either. The vast majority of these titles were published in every form you can imagine — print, digital, online, and e-mail news versions. These were established publications that covered news horizontally across the industrial spectrum and vertically within many specific markets. A lot of seasoned editorial and advertising people are going to be added to the unemployment rolls. A lot of rich trade publishing history (Chilton, Cahners, Reed) in these many markets is going away.
Competing books may feel like winners for having lasted through a 15-round prizefight; however, they will only really get a boost if they pick up new advertisers or increased ad revenues. Many advertisers will continue another trend — becoming self publishers by expanding content on their own web sites, posting to blogs, publishing their own e-newsletters, and launching company pages on social media. If anyone claims to have all the marketing answers these days, they need to revisit this story and be a little humbled.

Important Update:

Here is a link to a great article (although not a great story) on the Reed closures:

http://www.foliomag.com/2010/did-reed-ever-really-plan-sell-titles-it-closed

Important Update #2:

Prior to the April 30 deadline, in two separate deals, 7 titles were sold by Reed.

Logistics Management, Material Handling Product News, Modern Materials Handling and Supply Chain Management Review were bought by Peerless Media, a unit of EH Publishing. Control Engineering, Consulting-Specifying Engineer and Plant Engineering were purchased by CFE Media, a company formed by former RBI publishers:

http://www.btobonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100430/MEDIABUSINESS/100439988/1078/newsletter011

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