BEAT ME, DADDY, EIGHT CLICHÉS TO THE BAR
Dont use your ads to tell me how to think about you
Theres no more dangerous game, in marketing, than second guessing somebody elses ad campaign.
You say, "Well, maybe that will work for the staff and internal morale, but not for the market," and they say, "Yes, but thats exactly what we had in mind." You never know.
You say, "Beyond the Bottom Line? What does that slogan mean?" and they say, "It works. We got business out of it."
But sometimes, its hard to fathom just what the ad campaign is trying to accomplish. Sometimes, even the most generous assessment eludes logic and reason.
Take three campaigns for Big Six firms that are currently running -- Price Waterhouse, Deloitte, and Ernst and Young. Even allowing for obscure (to the reader) objectives, Price Waterhouse stands head and shoulders above the rest. For some very clear objective reasons.
Just on the face of it, the E&Y campaign slogan, "Theres no business We cant improve," is strange. How about the business youve just improved? If you can improve it more, why didnt you? But thats the least of the problem. Wait.
What were the normally rational marketing people at Deloitte thinking when they decided that the way to promote their firm was to denigrate the competition. "Andersen Consulting: Distracted by in-fighting. Deloitte Consulting: Focused on our clients." "McKinsey: Only senior managers have the power to make change happen. Deloitte Consulting: Only employees have the power to make change endure. "
Poor taste aside, arent we being a bit petulant? Are they saying, "Hire us because we are pure of heart? " How about, "Anything you can do we can do better?" When they do say, " were not obsessed with becoming the biggest consulting company in the world, just the best" are they kidding themselves, or kidding us? That seems to say, "We couldnt get anybody to merge with us, so were going to put down mergers." Are they saying we should hire them because they didnt make it in the marriage game?
In both the EY and Deloitte campaigns, they made every mistake that the PW campaign avoided. And they didnt do a lot of the good stuff that PW did do. Lets look at the PW campaign.
Will the PW ads work better than the others? No way to know for some time, but my guess is that they will. If "working" means generating an impression in the prospective clients mind that leads to susceptibility to other marketing efforts. And the merger PW is going through will make it even harder to judge. Surveys were taken by PW before they started the campaign, again at about 8 weeks, and again six months after the start of the ads. They showed two things -- the objective of the campaign, to change a perception of PW from an accounting firm to a consulting firm -- was achieved. But they also showed that not enough people saw the ads, which means that to compete more effectively, more money must be spent. This can change the face of an accounting firm (and eventually, all, professional firm) advertising. It's interesting to note that in 1989, when Andersen Consulting started its brillian campaigns, only $10 million was spent by all the Big Eight firms for institutional advertising. Today, with only six (soon five, probably) firms, expenditures are expected to reach $100 million. The winners will not only have to be richer, but smarter and tougher.
But the truth is that advertising for professional services firms plays a very different role than it does for products. You can possibly be impelled to buy chocolate from an ad. You can be persuaded to buy one brand of a product instead of another, and then to go out and actually make the purchase. But who hires an accountant or a lawyer from an ad? In professional services marketing, advertising educates (well, its supposed to, but it doesnt always), and it builds a context for other marketing efforts.
Ive often believed that few advertising agencies understand the difference between advertising a professional service and advertising a product. Ive seen that at first hand, and spent many a heated hour trying to get some otherwise good agencies to think like clients, and not like salesmen to look at what theyre writing from the other side of the table.
Putting a campaign together with a partnership, at the same time, can be a nightmare. Everybody has an opinion, and as a partner, the right to express that opinion. In PW's case, they were lucky. They had a good agency (McCann-Erikson), a great director of communications (Peter Horowitz), and some very bright partners dedicated to the project. And try to get something like that done without the firm managing partner behind it. There is no way to anticipate, of course, what the advertising will, be like after the merger, but the first joint ads, also done by McCann, show great promise.
As for PW, I dont know whether the ideas came from them or from PWs communications director, the estimable Peter Horowitz, or anybody else at PW. I do know that that few people understand positioning better than Horowitz, and that those PW ads are probably the best ever done for an accounting firm. And I know that the marketing people at both EY and Deloitte are good and competent people. They just had clueless agencies, I think.
And I know as well that you dont build credibility by putting down the competitors. Especially the successful competitors.