Tag Archives: strategy

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

one new shoe and one worn out shoe

One day, not long ago, I was having coffee with a friend. He is an account manager of sorts and deals with a lot of larger companies, many of whom are serviced by big ad agencies, design and marketing firms. He had worked at pretty much every level of the marketing, advertising and production business and had accumulated a wide variety of skills and insight.

We talked about a lot of things, as we usually do, and at a certain point the conversation got around to the differences between large agencies and small agencies in today’s business world. His observations had pretty much convinced him that the future of marketing, with the exception of companines in the top 10% in terms of size, reach and value as a client, was trending towards smaller ’boutique’ style firms.

Having all come from the big agency business ourselves once upon a time, I was really quite interested in what he had to say. And how, of course, that would affect things here at Ink Tank.

Life in the Twenty-First Century – Marketing Wise

His opinion is that large agencies and creative firms will continue to exist and the best ones will thrive, however with the global business landscape becoming increasingly more entrepreneurial, the prospects for those large agencies with hefty fees, heavy skews toward strategic development, slow turnaround times and large markups for outsourced services will, or in fact, have already narrowed considerably. Conversely, the opportunities for small, affordable, nimble and highly experienced smaller firms will broaden significantly.

The simple reason for this, according to my friend, is all about value. An entrepreneurial client values his or her relationships to a much greater extent than a big corporation does. They like the accountability and transparency that relationships with smaller firms engender. And they know that smaller firms, especially those who have been around for awhile, tend to be made up of individuals with a) much higher levels of experience, b) the ability to strategize, conceptualize and execute in a much more fluid fasion, c) a proven outsource supplier base with the same kind of DNA as they have, and d) the willingness to embrace client opinions much more openly, as opposed to the ‘us v. them’ mentality that still exists in many large creative and marketing firms.

The conversation with my friend resonated with what I’ve felt was true for quite some time. The world is a much different place than it was even a decade ago. The Internet has created a mixed bag of new media, some of which have yet to be fully proven and not all of which are right for all businesses. It has also created a number of new challenges for clients and business planners alike, all revolving around basic strategic and creative issues.

Many large agencies, studios and marketing firms today are filled to the brim with people who have grown up with a distinct bias towards digital media – a natural tendency as digital has been the bulk of their life and business experience. And like all biases, they tend to see only their own value and ignore or de-value other ways of doing things. Sadly, these big firm creative and marketing people are disadvantaged to a great extent because they have had very little in the way of mentoring: the people who could have mentored them, by and large, didn’t stay around to do that. They went off with their knowledge and experience and grew along with the digital age.

Old School and New School

This is pretty much our story here at Ink Tank. We all held senior positions in the advertising and design business. But instead of hanging around and passing ourselves off as gurus of one kind or another, we decided to keep working – our way – and adding new skills and experience. Because that was where the joy for us is derived.

Having worked in the communications business both pre and post-digital age has equipped us with a level of insight into both how these things have changed and how they’ve stayed the same. And at the end of the day, the strategic insight and experience, the creative development process and the need for high calibre execution remain constant.

What’s changed are really only the tools. And of course, our own levels of knowledge, experience and expertise, which are constantly deepening and expanding.

Finding Good Value: Invest In People Not Processes

Like any investment in services, when you hire a strategic communications firm, the intrinsic value that will be realized has more to do with the relationship between the company you choose and your company. And this is really all about people, experience and chemistry. Certainly costs play a role here, because there are as many companies that charge very high rates as those who charge unbelievably low rates. And then, of course, there are those in between. We fall into this category – believing in value for service and measurable value for the client.

Clients who have the attitude that creative development and execution are nothing more than commodities, fall into the category of ‘price shoppers’. And while some are more enlightened in their approach than others, at the end of the day for them, it will always come down to price. And they will invariably, as was stated previously, get what they pay for.

But the clients who treat their communications services as investments in people and experience will do so on the basis of chemistry first. That’s because these clients understand that to get the very best out of their chosen suppliers, it’s important to establish a true working partnership based on mutual respect and trust, like any partnership in life.

Clients who work this way generally have a solid intuitive understanding of the creative process and why things cost what they do. They will understand:

A) That good creative people are thinking all the time and that  they are, more often than not, getting the benefit of many more  hours than those which are actually being billed.

B)  That good creative people always do their best work for clients they feel are appreciative of their efforts – regardless of  budget.

C) That like all professionals they like to see their skills and expertise achieve the best possible results. This can only happen  when there is mutual respect, teaming with the client and when everyone is able to do what they do best.

D)  That good strategic creative people are fanatical about making sure their clients’ businesses are healthy and growing .

Chemistry Vs Cost

The most important part of ‘getting what you pay for’ has to do with what your perception of what good value represents.

It also has to do with the understanding that, while technology has improved the way in which creative is developed, it has not really affected the processes of developing a good strategy and creating ideas that solidly support that strategy. These are people processes and they tend to form the basis of how we estimate costs for our work.

At The Ink Tank we pride ourselves on a number of things but highest among them is our ability to partner effectively and beneficially with our clients. Because nothing we know of has more of a positive impact on the cost issue than the success factor that great work and great relationships can generate.