There’s no excuse for not being involved

There’s no excuse for not being involved

Every year, it seems, there’s a Super Bowl advertiser that regrets signing off on a spot that runs during the big game. This year’s Monday morning advertising quarterback is Groupon.

You may recall the company ran a spot that many felt made light of the repression in Tibet. Some may question the ad agency, in this case CP+B, and their creative tastes and political correctness. But ultimately, the decision comes down to the client. Someone at Groupon clearly signed off on this creative direction. According to Ad Age, there was some confusion as to whether CP+B was fired or whether or not they just concluded a short-term Super Bowl project.

It doesn’t matter who came up with the concept that riled up so many viewers. What matters is that Groupon openly admits that they placed too much trust in their ad agency? Groupon CEO, Andrew Mason, recently told Bloomberg BusinessWeek that “…we learned that you can’t rely on anyone else to control and maintain your own brand.”

Really? Control? Maintain? These are things you let outsiders do?

Groupon is the latest in a long string of technology media darlings and Mason is deserving of most of that credit. But where he and Groupon messed up is in their thinking that an ad agency is a tool you plug into your organization and let it run on it’s own volition.

There’s an extremely fine line drawn between letting your agency be creative and letting your agency go too far outside the message that you want to convey. Did Groupon get lazy in their agency engagement? If so, that’s their fault. But is CP+B to blame as well? I’m sure to some extent, but they’re also paid to throw the craziest of ideas up on the wall and seeing what sticks. Of course, it’s also their responsibility to do that in the best interests of their client. I would definitely take that as a mistake on my part if I heard a client saying they should have been more involved.

My main point here is this: your marketing agency doesn’t have all the answers and they shouldn’t act separately on your behalf. If you’re hiring them to run with your advertising or branding without you being involved, you’re doomed to fail and ultimately risk losing control of your brand.

You don’t want to suffocate the creative process that you’re paying an agency to support you on. However, you should never excuse yourself from being involved in that creative process. It’s extremely important to us that we’re able to say that we’ve answered the following question when creating marketing strategy for our clients:

  1. Have we gained a complete understanding of their unique challenge and company vision?
  2. Have we stressed the importance of their involvement in the entire creative process?
  3. Are we acting in their best interest in everything we create?

While being an engaged client with your marketing agency doesn’t guarantee success, it’s safe to say that the clients who we’ve worked with over these past 11-plus years who aren’t enthusiastically involved in the process have essentially thrown their money and time away. Think about that for a moment before you jump into hiring a creative agency. What is your budget — in both money and time? If you budget things appropriately, you’ll feel like you’re spending a bit more time, but probably saving a lot more money.


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