If the modern ad agency were to be described as a car, the car wheels would consist of:
Above the line marketing
Below the line promotions
An agency who’s wheels are well designed, properly balanced and built from high-grade materials, will possess a vehicle which can move quickly, handle smoothly, and be cost-efficient.
Today, however, too many agencies not only have wheels which are not calibrated as strong as they could be, but even worse, many are actually trying to drive with only three wheels!
Before we get into the what and why of that, let’s take a quick overview of the function of each wheel.
Wheel One: Branding
Branding is the overall face of a company or product which they show to the world. It’s their identity, and as such must always be considered, employed and respected when crafting campaigns (the other three wheels).
Any quality agency should have the ability to create effective branding for their clients, be able to build on a current brand, or design campaigns that complement the brand.
Wheel Two: Above-the-Line Marketing
Above-the-line marketing consists of the advertising you find in traditional (and some online) media channels. This includes:
- Magazine and newspaper ads
- TV spots
- Direct mail
- In-store displays
- PPC advertising
You get the general idea. You can hardly go out into the world without being bombarded with this kind of content. Often the material is designed to make you feel that owning a product or using a service will make your life better.
Wheel Three: Below-the-Line Promotions
Below-the-line marketing can be disseminated via traditional channels or the Web and includes:
- Buy one, get one free
- Buddy referrals
I choose to include social media and SEO together because to me they are often two sides of the same coin when it comes to digital marketing. SEO without interesting content is very results limited, and vice versa. Social media/SEO marketing includes:
- Inbound content creation
- Keyword strategy
- Back linking
- Monitoring analytics
- Site funneling
And here is where we start to deal with the what and the why. While ALL agencies (and their clients) are certainly aware of social media and SEO, too many are:
- Dismissive of their power to create leads and conversions
- Fuzzy on how it all actually works, so they tend to underutilize them
- Are afraid to ask “What is SEO” or What is “Internet Marketing” so stay in the dark
- Using them wrong
Now while the first two are unfortunate, the last one can actually be annoying. Many agencies use social media purely as another means to advertise. They don’t attempt to engage or provide interesting content. They are the “old guard” of advertisers who only understand the act of marketing as a passive activity where a message gets pushed out and the audience absorbs it.
The idea that the audience can respond back, help form the message, or even decide what the message will be is totally foreign to them. For these agencies, Web 2.0 exists, but it’s probably just a fad, and it’s just another avenue to put a sign on.
After all, marketing is marketing, a headline is a headline, and it’s all about being clever. Anyway, we’re the professionals and our job can never be co-opted by the very people we’re hawking product to.
Funny thing is, there is still a place for a good sell sheet or brochure in marketing, and there are times when it’s cool to post an old-school brand pitch on Twitter. But times they have-a-change-ed.