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September 24, 2009
Life is Not a Two-Page Visual Solution Spread

Preparing for the new demands of today's campaigns

Like a lot of creatives in advertising, I keep a file of ads and printed materials I’ve seen that I thought were cool. It’s always a good reference to pull out every now and then. And while I still flip through magazines and newspapers, and I still get a lot of junk mail, I haven’t updated my file much lately.

Now, it’s not because I don’t think there aren’t any great print ads these days. There are. Rather, it’s that I rarely come into contact with great advertising in an “organic” sort of way -- while reading the magazines I read. Instead, I see great print ads reproduced and mentioned on the web. I see them in blogs, I get notified of them in press releases, or they’re referenced on industry websites or in business publications.

Is it just me, or does it seem that the best way to get attention and traction for an advertising campaign mostly involves other things besides traditional advertising?

Now for me it may be an occupational hazard of staying informed about the ad industry, but I also believe it’s part of a bigger trend. We’re redefining what advertising is, how consumers see or interact with it, how well it works, and most importantly for people reading this on Talent Zoo, how it should be represented in both portfolios and agency credentials packages.

It used to be, a “campaign” that you saw in a portfolio or in an award show annual often appeared in threes: 3 print ads. 3 radio or TV spots. The real world doesn’t work that way.

Advertising in 2009 is much more tactically based: It’s the e-mail that introduces the iPhone app that resembles the TV spot that goes with the microsite that’s announced in the press release to launch the whole thing.

There’s always something attractive and artful about a nice, uncluttered two-page spread or minute-long brand “anthem” TV spot. But the other elements of advertising are starting to do the heavy lifting—and clients know it. In this day and age, that’s what they need and seek.

Even the most seemingly mundane tactics play a role in moving the needle for clients whether it’s through added sales or added attention. E-mails, sales training, banner ads, alternative reality games, and all sorts of other components are being added to the mix. And to top it all off, seeding the whole campaign in social media as well as the traditional media – which takes some planning as much as anything else.

I think there are deeper questions we need to start asking:

Is a website any good if there aren’t any links to it or it’s not seeded with e-mails or tweets or on a Facebook brand fan page? Is an advertising campaign really a campaign if there are only one or two tactics involved? Is a campaign effective if it doesn’t garner any added publicity?

Even in a sexy, splashy, big-budget ad campaign that’s produced these days, there will always be elements that seem a little mundane. But they’re all needed to get the job done. It’s forcing agencies to change they way they think, staff, and make money.

Now, think about how this affects you and your role in an agency. Some people think it’s important to master one skill. Some people think you need to be more versatile than that. But I think doing it all, and well, is a necessity on the job these days.

We’re entering an age where creatives need to be well-versed in all the elements that are needed to make an effective campaign. You’ve gotta be able to work on the print ad, as well as the e-mail and the app. You need the creatives working with the programmers. You need the AE’s to make sure all the elements work together—and get approved by the client in a timely manner so the whole effort launches in concert. And someone needs to make sure that the press, blogs, and other media outlets learn about the whole thing. At the very least, all the players on an account need to understand how each piece contributes to the big picture.

Some agencies already do much of this well, and some don’t. The ones that don’t are in trouble. Doing the smaller tactics as well as the ad executions, making sure they’re as good as they can be, and getting good PR for the client and the agency are the keys to working in the business now and in the future.

Because in the end, dollar bills are roughly the same shape as a two-page spread, but they speak a whole lot louder.

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Since 2002, Dan Goldgeier has been writing the most provocative advertising columns about advertising and marketing -- over 170 of them, covering every related topic you can think of. Now based in Seattle, Dan is a copywriter and ad school graduate who's worked at shops big and small. 

Visit his copywriting websitesee his LinkedIn profile or follow him on Twitter.

And please, buy his book for 99 cents.


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