Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Signs of Life

The field of advertising is largely made up of optimists. We can be cynical and sarcastic… but underneath all that springs hope eternal. As most of the country spends the week digging themselves out from snow, it’s a good time to reflect on the building industry and the signs of life it’s starting to project.

Lots of smiles at GreenBuild. Granted, this show attracts a progressive crowd and certainly the weather in Phoenix is mood lifting, but all-in-all people were optimistic about the industry’s short and long-term prospects. Architects, contractors and building owners alike are looking for sustainable solutions and are eager to talk. Ironically, the lack of actual building activity may have resulted in key influencers having more time to research sustainable products. In a time when most trade shows are experiencing reduced attendance numbers, GreenBuild enjoyed a slight uptick (2008, 23,000; 2009, 29,000).

The IBS crowd was surprisingly upbeat. Mortgages, foreclosure inventory and the availability of construction loans are still topics of concern, but by and large people are feeling like the worst is behind us. The show’s overall footprint has shrunk, but things seem to be on the road to recovery. Most exhibitors considered the show a success. In 2011 the show returns to Orlando.

“I want cheap, measurable and effective.” We’re about midway through the 1st quarter of 2010 and people are still very cautious. But cautious activity is certainly better than no activity at all. Budgets remain tight. Measurable results are being demanded even more than usual. One tactic A/O is suggesting to our clients to help stretch their budgets is graphic E-blasts. We call them Tickle™.

We’re big on Tickle for a couple of reasons.

1. It’s measurable.
2. It’s super targetable.
3. It’s an inexpensive way to maintain frequency.
4. It’s direct.

One caveat. Tickle is essentially a direct mail vehicle, and like any direct mail campaign, the list is everything. If you’re looking for a little boost in your marketing, maybe a little Tickle might do the trick. Insert sales pitch here – A/O can help you create compelling messaging and administer a program like this.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When Work Imitates Art

On a recent visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, I was pressed by my 5-year old to explain the subject matter in a Picasso painting, Woman in an Armchair. I did what most parents would do; I read the little card next to the piece and did my best to translate. My daughter gave me a perfectly blank look. The painting had missed. Picasso’s signature and immense talent simply meant nothing to her. She dismissed the painting and my explanation and skipped away to examine the beaded moccasins in the Native American exhibit. I lingered in front of the painting for a minute longer. To be honest I was far from enamored with the piece as well… no matter which way I tilted my head. But why the feeling of Déjà vu?

Then it hit me. Clients get that same look my daughter had flashed.

Let me put that into context; they get that look when we miss the mark; when their business objectives outshine our boundless enthusiasm and immense talent. It happens when we miss. It happens when we forget what our job is. In a group of three, it’s usually option number three. Unfortunately, we don’t have the same luxuries as an Impressionist or Cubist artist – we have to sell something for our clients right now. Posthumous success does not work in advertising.

At A/O, we talk about Creative with Accountability. And for the most part, we live by it. On the rare occasion we get a little too artsy, be gentle. Although a particular execution may be off the mark, remind yourself why you hired a creative firm in the first place; to provide you with the product of creativity. Part of our job is to challenge our clients to communicate ideas and express their brand in ways they might not have thought of on their own. Even if we do mix in an occasional “wild hare,” chances are pretty good that options one and two are right on target. As for option number three, you might want to consider hanging it on the wall. Who knows, it might pass for art.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The cobbler's kids get new shoes

Like most creative agencies, the staffers here at Arnold Ostrom Advertising have been critical of many, many logos. In all fairness, we thought it might be a good idea to take a long, objective look at our own identity. We developed the old gal back in 2000 when The Arnold Group was transitioning from a design firm to the agency we are today. We were in the midst of adding a partner and the word advertising to the name and we desperately wanted to be taken seriously – so we created a serious looking logo.

Fast-forward to 2009. We’re more comfortable with ourselves now; comfortable enough to ask the question, "Does our logo really represent us?" We reached the conclusion our identity was a tad too staid, too serious.

"Hmmmm, we are creative. Perhaps, we thought, we could turn ourselves loose… on ourselves.”

Although very diplomatic with our clients, ad folks can be brutal with their own. What started as calm conversation, turned to heated debate and then to frantic shouting. Eventually the skies cleared and the solution presented itself. A new A/O logo had been born.

The new logo is more personal and not quite so serious. We believe it suits us a good deal better. And if you ask us, we can rationalize every aspect of it… after all, that’s what we do.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

There will be pie... but not a lot.

The pie for 2010’s building products industry will be smallish. Commercial building is still on life support and residential building (although showing signs of improvement) is still in critical condition. Here’s the thing; small as it is, your category still has a pie. What are you doing to insure your piece is worth having? You can’t jump-start the economy by yourself, but here are three things we think you could be doing:

1. Make it personal: Call your best customers, send them a letter and book a ticket. Your relationships are worth their weight in gold right now. Find out what they’re hoping to accomplish; how you can help and what you can do better. Make a commitment, better still, make a few impressive promises… and keep them.

2. Keep Marketing: Keeping a moving body in motion requires a lot less energy than trying to get one moving from a dead stand-still. Cut back if you must, but do so carefully. Consider using HTML email blasts – but if you’re going to send something make it interesting, or you’ll find yourself filtered after your first attempt. And no, that does not mean you have to create a newsletter.

3. Renegotiate: Magazines have never been skinnier. Now is great time to “grab eyes.” Regardless of what anybody tells you, a good media plan and a solid creative campaign can add effectiveness to the rest of your marketing mix. Work with an agency that knows your industry and chance are good you will get both.

One thing we know is 2010 will occur. Even the most strident followers of the Mayan calendar insist that the end the world will be no sooner than December 2012. So as long as we’re all going to be open for business anyway…