Originally published in the Advisor Magazine, December 1984, by Walter Ohlmann, President, Penny Ohlmann Neiman, Inc.
The leading publication in our field is Advertising Age. The local organization for our industry is the Dayton Advertising Club. The most prestigious organization on the national level is the American Association of Advertising Agencies. And how often has a prospect called and said, “I want to talk to you about some advertising”?
Advertising. One would think that advertising is the sum total of an agency’s expertise and knowledge. Perhaps it was a long time ago. Perhaps it was when we were all smaller and the world was less sophisticated. Perhaps it was when our clients relied less on our services and we were less knowledgeable about the whole spectrum and interweaving of the marketing and communication functions.
Advertising? Sure, we do advertising. But, we do a whole lot more. A case in point. Some years ago, we received a call asking us to make a presentation to a marketer of a large-ticket item. In our pre-presentation meeting, we discovered that the company, and industry, had undergone a tremendous change in the past couple of years. The product two years earlier carried a price tag in the $12-$15,000 range and qualified for 12 year financing. Today’s product was in the $25,-$30,000 range and should qualify for 20, 25 or even 30 year financing.
The major problem was two-fold. One, the company still had the same dealer distribution system of two years earlier; and two, many of the financial institutions were still limiting financing to 12 years. The problem: slow sales. The requested presentation: devise an advertising campaign to overcome the problem.
Instead of the expected presentation, our strategy centered on the creation of a “financial package” which dealers could take to their local financial institution to increase the financing term from the 12 year range to a term of 20 years or more. And secondly, we suggested the complete rejuvenation of the dealer organization to increase distribution to a level where the consumer could find the product and with the proper financing, afford it.
Advertising? That was the last item on the list. We recommended that possibly in 18 months, there might be a place for advertising. After all the obstructions had been cleared away. After a revitalized dealer, organization was in place. After the financing was available.
We got the account. Why? Because we were the only agency who had recommended not to advertise.
More recently, this past summer in fact, we received a request from out of town to “look over our advertising.” They were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars advertising the buying and selling of trucks. Their salespeople were both buyers and sellers. There were no territories, which required their crisscrossing the country. Their compensation plan was based on straight percentage on everything they bought and everything they sold. There were no incentives. Incentives to buy low or incentives to sell high.
Our recommendation: don’t advertise…yet. First, put a new compensation package together that rewarded the profit-oriented achiever and penalized those who didn’t create profits for the company. Secondly, specify sales territories to avoid the constant cross-country travel, cut down the attendant expenses, and improve customer loyalty.
We interviewed management, salespeople, customers, the trade press and anyone connected with the industry. We devised a new compensation package and compared it meticulously against the payroll of the past 12 months. We compiled the available number of prospects, state by state, and weighted them according to their potential importance to the sales program. And we came up with fair and equitable sales territories. The territories and new compensation went into effect November 1st.
Advertising? No…but it was the first step toward stabilizing the marketing function of this company and moving it into a position to capitalize on future advertising.
Are these the functions of an agency? Certainly. But not necessarily the functions of an advertising agency. So, perhaps we should take down our signs proclaiming advertising, and instead proclaim our function as a sales-support service. Because before we embark on the road to advertising, we had better be sure the road is clear. That our message can get through. That there is nothing obstructing the way; either internally or externally.
We need to disengage ourselves from the small corner, which is advertising, and function in the entire arena. We need to provide those services, which by our training, our experience, and our objectivity can bring solutions to our clients’ problems…far beyond advertising.