Apr 06

There’s nothing thick about this brick

It's rare to find an advertising agency that does a superior job of marketing itself. The Martin Single-brick Agency is one notable exception. It's rarer still to find an ad agency that believes advertising exists to sell a client's wares. Most creative directors (and, trust me, I've known my share) think they're the second coming of Billy Wilder, John Ford or Alfred Hitchcock, and look to print and broadcast as a means to express their inner Spielberg and, critically, win awards. Client sales be damned.

That's what makes the new OgilvyOne 'World's Greatest Salesperson' campaign a home run in this agency marketer cum blogger's book. Its genius lies in its simultaneous simplicity, call to action and return to the agency's roots (no mean feat accomplishing those three goals in one fell swoop).

The campaign is actually a 15-country contest to find and reward the world's greatest salesperson. The challenge: use a specially branded channel on YouTube, along with Twitter, Facebook and other social media to sell a red brick. Yes, a red brick. The most creative campaign creator wins a three-month internship at OgilvyOne.

Apart from simply being clever as hell, the campaign returns the agency to its founder's core concepts: Ad legend David Ogilvy always believed advertising existed to sell products, not win awards.

I'm a huge proponent of agency marketing and chafed when my long-gone (but clearly not forgotten) Brouillard CEO told me it was a total waste of time. “Clients want us focused on doing their work. That's how we charge premium rates,” he'd sniff. He was all about charging premium rates and always positioned the now defunct firm as the 'Tiffany's of advertising.' A noble aspiration to be sure but, ultimately a doomed one since no one knew who the hell we were because we never marketed ourselves.

I'm of the opinion that clients and prospects hire agencies who understand how to differentiate and market their own services. In fact, I've often heard Peppercom clients say that our agency first attracted their attention through our thought leadership on a relevant subject. 'Why hire an agency to market for me if they can't do it for themselves?' clients would ask rhetorically. And yet most agencies can't, or won't.

We're one of the few PR firms that believes in aggressive agency marketing. It's stood us in good stead and we'll continue to invest the time and resources to drive it forward.

I'd like to think it takes a good marketer to recognize a great one. So, here's a tip of the cap to the OgilvyOne greatest salesperson contest. I love it. And, I have to believe the late David Ogilvy shares my feeling and is smiling down from that great sales convention in the sky. Always be closing, David. ABC.

Feb 02

Everyday products to everyday people in not so everyday ways

February 2 I’m always fascinated to see how organizations, large and small, attempt to differentiate themselves while delivering on a brand promise. As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, I once worked for an integrated agency whose tagline was: ‘Sales overnight and image over time.’ Sadly, the firm couldn’t deliver on either and has subsequently gone the way of all flesh. Richmond, Va. based Martin Agency, however, is the polar opposite of my erstwhile alma mater.

Adweek just named Martin its U.S. agency of the year. In addition to growing by 12 percent and winning such big accounts such as Pizza Hut and Microsoft, Martin won an amazing 14 of the 18 competitive reviews in which it competed. Wow.

Martin does an extraordinarily good job of differentiating itself and delivering on its brand promise in simple, direct words. Mike Hughes, the agency’s creative director, says his firm fosters work that, ‘sells everyday products to everyday people in not so everyday ways.’ Is that sweet, or what?

I hate it when businesspeople use the word ‘elegant’ to describe their product or service, but that line is, quite simply, elegant. And simple. It tells me exactly who the agency targets (brands such as Pizza Hut). It tells me which target audience they know best (the everyday people who buy products from Wal-Mart and Expedia). And, critically, it tells me that Martin executes in unexpected ways (and that’s the brand promise).

Too many professional services sector firms try too hard to say too much in their taglines and positioning statements. Most end up saying exactly the same thing in more or less the same unintelligible mishmash of words. So, when a Martin comes along with a crisp, compelling statement that it actually delivers on, well, that calls for an old-fashioned shout out.