Creativity is still the key element that determines the success of advertising campaigns, and some of the state’s largest advertising agencies proved they have that quality in abundance by walking away with numerous state, regional and even some national advertising contest awards.
“I think the work for the 1997 ADDYs was very good overall,” said Randy Lynn with the Ramey Agency. “I think that maybe the rest of the country would be surprised. Mississippi isn’t thought of as a place to come for your advertising, unfortunately. I think as the work continues to progress, and we keep pushing the bar a little, I can see people changing their minds about us and maybe start to think about using a Mississippi agency. There are a lot of agencies here capable of doing very capable, smart, sophisticated advertising.”
Lynn said it used to be commonly accepted that you had to go to New York City for quality advertising. But Mississippi agencies are proving that their work is just as sharp as that produced anywhere else in the country.
“And from the clients’ perspective, they are not paying for our rent or lease in Manhattan,” Lynn said. “Our overhead is lower, so we can do good work with lower production costs.
“We have everything they need. We just have to aggressively go after national clients.”
But it takes more than winning awards to attract large clients. And the trend towards mergers has made it more difficult for Mississippi ad agencies to retain the customers they have.
Danny Mitchell, chairman and CEO of GodwinGroup, said there are fewer Mississippi-owned companies now because of the large number of Mississippi companies which have merged with either publicly-held companies or out-of-state companies.
“Whenever these mergers take place, Mississippi agencies are generally losing out,” Mitchell said. “The companies become a part of a major organization that already has a national ad agency.”
Mitchell said another trend is for much younger “X generation” marketing directors for companies.
These young marketing directors have a lot of enthusiasm, but not much marketing experience.
“A lot of advertising is targeted to the X generation,” Mitchell said. “It is believed to be a real valid group to target, and some companies feel they need leadership from that group in marketing in order to be effective. One of the characteristics of that generation of marketing director is they tend to believe they can do more in-house and build their own staff rather than use outside services.”
Mitchell said another trend in the industry is toward efficacious advertising: getting results.
“All of our clients are much more interested in the results that our advertising garners than they are in awards,” he said. “We tend to attract clients that are very marketing disciplined, and that’s the result they want from their advertising. Very rarely have we had clients ask about awards. We’ve won a lot of awards, even national and international awards, but never once have we gained a client because of them. We’re always proud when our creative department can win awards because it is accolades they deserve. It is pleasant to be recognized by your peers as doing good work. But it has not been something that has helped us get any business.”
David Kimball, president of Maris, West & Baker, said all of the state’s advertising agencies are working leaner these days, just as their clients are working leaner. And winning awards or winning results for clients still is based primarily on creativity and creating a brand for the client.
“The basic premise is that good creativity is what sells products based upon a brand,” Kimball said. “We create a strong brand identity for the client. We may develop different ways to communicate that brand identity, but the core idea stays the same. We are continually exploring new and better ways to do things, such as interactive media: the World Wide Web and CD-ROM. But those are just ways to execute an idea.”
Lynn said there continues to be a conflicts between the entertaining and selling approaches to advertising. One school of thought is that the most important thing is to sell, and uses a hard sell approach.
The other thought is that you have to entertain the customer first, give them a good feeling about the product, and then sell it to them.
“I think it should be somewhere in between,” Lynn said. “A good analogy about advertising creative, the product, is it is what clothes your business. It is the first thing that people who don’t know you see. You can be a good person or a bad person, but people tend to make snap judgements about appearance. Advertising is really the appearance that you make. Going back to the entertaining versus selling thing, obviously advertising wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for selling. The debate is really what receives the focus. All other things being equal, if a consumer feels good about a product, and embraces the philosophy of this product, most people are inclined to buy it.”