Thursday, January 15, 2009

How Advertisers Can Implement Accountability Without Stifling Creativity

Trying times, these times we’re in.

Budgets are increasingly coming under greater and greater scrutiny. And yet, most marketers still don’t have a clear strategy as how best to deal with accountability.

Especially when it comes to the creativity of their advertising.

How do marketers make accountability a friend and not an enemy of creativity?

A client of mine once told me that advertising consisted of two things – manufacturing and distribution. First, you manufacture the message. And then, you distribute it.

His thinking was almost genius in its simplicity.

He thought this way because his marketing budget consisted of two columns. One column was the budget for manufacturing the message – production.

The other column was the budget for distributing the message – media.

The manufacturing column was usually about 10% of the distribution column.

The creative department of the agency was only concerned with the amount of money that was in the manufacturing column. After all, that amount of the budget was all they were responsible for. And therefore, it could be argued that it is really all that they should be held directly accountable for.

If the production budget is used to create a commercial that is thirty seconds long, then the agency’s creativity is accountable for whether or not those thirty seconds were engaging enough to be watched.

After all, a watched second of a produced commercial offers a better Return on Investment for an advertiser’s production dollars than an unwatched second.

Today, view duration data tells advertisers whether seconds are watched or not. So they will know what the Return On Investment is on their production dollars.

And, in turn, will be able to hold creativity accountable.

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t mentioned the “S” word yet.

Obviously, sales are the holy grail of any marketing campaign. But sales indicate the Return on Investment on the total marketing budget – both the manufacturing and distribution columns.

The question we’re trying to answer is how can we hold creativity accountable?

To hold creativity accountable, it must be isolated from the total marketing budget.

Today’s digital data allows us to isolate the results of the different component parts of a marketing budget. By isolating results, advertisers will be able to hold the different parts of a marketing campaign accountable for delivering what they were paid to deliver.

Including creativity.

Granted, people may watch a commercial and not be motivated to buy the product at the end. The fact is, this happens more often that not.

On the other hand, you can pretty much guarantee that people won’t buy the product if they don’t watch the commercial.

In other words, watching the commercial is a necessary precursor to sales.

So there is value in view duration.

Which is why view duration should be the first criteria that creativity is held accountable for.

Sales can be the second.

But my guess is that if you make agencies accountable for increasing the view duration of their messages, the chances are good that sales will follow.

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