Category Archives: Ad Agencies

Engaging with the Big Game

There is no question that I will be engaged in the Super Bowl this weekend.  In fact, it has been on my radar for weeks.  The question is exactly how will I choose to engage?

  • Old School —  Just enjoy the game for the game’s sake.  As a native Pittsburgher with fond memories of the Steel Curtain, swirling terrible towels, and chanting “One for the Thumb,” it’s a logical choice.
  • Facebook Fanatic – Participating in the virtual cheers and jeers that are bound to continue between my Facebook friends who have been posting images of Steeler cheese graters, “Stairway to 7” slogans and other signs of their team affiliations for the past several weeks.
  • Professional – As a 20-year veteran of the advertising and marketing world, there is the obligation to analyze every commercial so that I am prepared to debate the winners and losers with family, friends and colleagues on Monday morning.
  • Twitter Tags – And there is always the appeal of the Twitter buffet of 140-character musings on everything from the plays, the refs, and the commercials to the Polamalu  vs. Matthews “Hair Bowl.”

The truth is, I will probably engage with the Super Bowl in all these ways, as each appeals to me on a different level.

As a marketer, it is also a good reminder that target audiences are multidimensional and will choose to engage with brands and messages in a variety of different ways with different expectations – sometimes all at the same time.  Communications plans need to be as multidimensional as they are.

Pamela J. Alvord – EVP, Managing Director of Strategy and Operations


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Three steps to a successful direct mail campaign when using variable data

I’m not the Unabomber!

My heritage has granted me the opportunity to be the recipient of endless spelling variations of my last name.  Some have been comical, some have been insulting, and some have been downright mind-boggling.  I do receive a lot of mail with simply

“Tim K.” This can be considered somewhat cowardly, but I’m at least a little less irritated.

I recently received a direct mail piece from a well-known Atlanta printer. I’ve done business with them over the years, so I wasn’t some blind prospect for them. They know who I am and where I work.  It was a nice design, and they used variable data throughout.  But there were some serious issues with the execution.

They totally massacred my name, along with using a former version of our company name. The printer was touting its ability to go the extra mile for its clients.  Do you think I believed them when they couldn’t take the time to check their information?  How much confidence would anyone have in a company that didn’t check its list?

This was totally avoidable.  A little front-end research could have planted the seeds of building on a client-vendor relationship. Instead, the potential business relationship is gone. Lost prospects mean lost dollars.

Here is my advice to anyone using direct mail with variable data:

1) Check your list!  If you are compiling your own list, hire someone to take the time to call and verify all the vital information.  It is pretty basic stuff, really. Name (see spelling), title, company name, address, etc.  You are investing a lot of money to promote your company in the hopes of gaining business. Take the time to earn the right to our business.

2) Check your list often!  If you work in the business, you know that your contacts can move around a lot.  Use some of the professional/social websites like LinkedIn or Facebook to keep up with your prospects.  Update your list and when you’re done – update your list again.

3) Proofread – I have received endless direct mail pieces that are currently in a landfill due to typos. The minute I see one, I toss it to the trash can. Don’t waste my time.

I’m done with my manifesto – off to my one-room shed in the woods.

— Tim Kedzierski, Production Manager


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Auditing your measurement will help you achieve success outside and inside your organization.

When was the last time you audited your marketing measurement program? We find that most marketers don’t do this enough. And when they do, they find they’ve run into obstacles at many critical data points during the evaluation process.

Why? I believe everyone’s intention to adequately measure the results of individual or collective programs starts out meaningful.  Who does not want to measure whether or not the marketing initiative actually yielded the desired result? But the difference we find is not in the intent, rather, it is in the delivery and integrity of the data.

Oftentimes, information has to come from sources outside the marketing department’s control. Like sales lead information. Or, the data from IT, which doesn’t exactly match up to a reportable statistic that verifies that the marketing initiative works. Thankfully, there are tools like Google Analytics that are able to inform the process such that it allows data gatherers to get reporting moving.  Often, though, it is only one step in the measurement chain.

Technology changes everything we do when it comes to the collection of relevant data. More sophisticated technologies can help a marketing group get a clear understanding of how the myriad of tools employed actually can connect to relevant activity.

Marketers must make auditing their measurement a priority. Not just for measuring the effectiveness of their campaign but for internal accountability and the promotion of marketing’s agenda. And because today’s executive team demands hard numbers.

Using business goals as a clear metric is key to success. Using softer measures often does not satisfy the folks upstairs. Making sure all are aligned to deliver data that suggests an investment in the marketing program was well worth it will ensure success when budget time comes around.

— Rena Kilgannon, Principal & CEO


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Creative in the new age of measurement. It sure beats testing.

The digital age has added a new responsibility to the creative’s job. It used to be that we just had to be funny, smart, and on target. Now we have to be measurable, and we must create content with measurement in mind.

While this certainly sounds like an extra layer that can interfere with creating the best work possible, I’m actually for it when it’s employed correctly.  That’s right, a creative who’s for measurement.

Why in the heck would a creative embrace testing? Because now we can prove that the best creative is usually the most compelling and effective in the marketplace.

Back in the old days, creative measurement meant testing, and testing meant death by focus group. I’ve witnessed group dynamics ruin many perfectly good ideas.

Today, rather than spend their money on focus-group testing, a client can A/B test creative in the real world. And with the vastness of the digital space, clients can run with more than one idea and see which ones gain the most engagement.

Now, instead of reacting to what people say they will do in a monitored group situation, we actually know what they are doing and can react quickly with real-time information.

I see this as a boon for creative output and clients. Rather than argue about which creative is better, let’s put it to the test. I see this as an opportunity to produce more great work and prove its worth scientifically in the marketplace.

— Jimmy Gilmore, Senior Copywriter


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Gut Is for Gamblers

It sure seems as if the days of developing creative and hoping that it breaks through, resonates with the target, and drives sales are over.  There is not a lot of appetite for statements like, “I think this is gonna work.”  Unless you can say, “I know this will work,” and back it up with some data, you run the risk of having your marketing programs killed and your budget diverted elsewhere within the company.

Marketing is being held to a higher standard, and rightfully so.  We are at the point where nearly every target interaction can be measured in some manner.  And if you’re like our clients, you need all the data you can get to prove that your programs are working, and justify future budgets… and maybe even your job!

But what about front-end analytics?  Sure, we always do our homework at the start of any assignment and try to learn everything we possibly can about the target and what they might respond to.  But is that enough?  What happened to the days of pretesting and being prepared to answer the question “Will this really work?”  I know… there’s never enough time or money to do it properly, and the creatives really hate it.

With every marketing dollar being scrutinized, improving your results by just a few percentage points can make a huge difference.  Sure, you can test lots of digital work on the fly, but what about print, direct, and broadcast?  Those media aren’t dead just yet!

It doesn’t have to be an elaborate, time-consuming process.  Here’s what I see as the seven keys to a successful pretest:

  1. Set specific goals and have a detailed analytics plan in place prior to implementation.
  2. Make sure all the core team members have bought in and are on the same page.
  3. Keep it simple – don’t test too many variables at one time.
  4. Understand the outside influences that can disrupt your test, and be prepared to mitigate them.
  5. Test a large enough sample to make good decisions and make sure the test group represents your target.
  6. Execute the plan – don’t let people redirect it in midstream.
  7. Commit to making changes based on what the results tell you.

So don’t be afraid of pretesting.  Embrace it.  Your future may depend on it!

– Stephen Weinstein, Director of Account Management


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Lessons Learned by an Intern

My summer here at Kilgannon as an intern has given me quite an education.  I’ve learned a lot about the advertising world, the way a business functions, communication, and what I want to do with my life.  Many of these lessons came quickly, like when my boss tried to convince me that a ‘wrap’ party involved togas (this was a lesson in e-mail sarcasm), others took time.  So, just in case you were dying to know what I found out this summer, here is a quick summary.

1- There needs to be a focus

Everything you do should have a point, and it should get there fast.

2- Keep good company

For a team to work well together the people in it need to be comfortable with each other.  Make an effort to get to know your coworkers, and meetings will be less awkward.

3- Plan for the future

Time moves fast.  Be forward thinking and plan for the changes you see coming.

4- Listen to people

Be attentive and be focused.  If you aren’t, you will miss something important.

5- Ask Questions

If you don’t know, ask!  It’s better to admit ignorance before the fact, than to apologize for it after.

6- Sugar vs. Vinegar

Sugar wins, duh.  Being nice makes everyone’s day easier – including yours.

7- Like what you do

This is the most important; if you hate your job, you won’t ever be good at it.  It would be wasteful to spend 40+ hours a week on something that makes you want to cry.

So there it is, what I learned this summer.  It is certainly not complete yet, but these are the lessons I will take with me when I start real life after I graduate next spring.  So thanks, Kilgannon, for teaching me the ropes; it really was a lot of fun.

— Lee Anne Murphy, Intern


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Are we there yet?

I just read today that traditional agencies are doing a pretty decent job at digital work. It was in one of the gazillions of advertising-related e-mails I receive. It was about the Old Spice campaign done by Wieden + Kennedy – a well-known traditional agency.

Why is this such a surprise? Because traditional agencies were slow to adapt to digital? Maybe, well, uhmm, actually that’s a correct statement. It has nothing to do with size of agency. I think it has more to do with vision, resources, client belief that a traditional agency can lead them to the digital promised land.

At the end of the day, it is about adapting to a world that embraces receiving messages any number of ways – more and more predominantly online or via mobile. Be where the people are. Communicate with audiences using tools they prefer to use. Knowing how target audiences interact with this technology is the key to whether a traditional agency is savvy enough to include technology as part of the message delivery system.

The article also states that traditional agencies are still behind the curve when it comes to incorporating social media into a campaign. While I won’t disagree completely, I do challenge with the fact that many clients are behind the curve, as well. I had an interesting conversation with a client who, while embracing the idea of having an ongoing conversation with his customer base, does not know who to assign their side of the conversation to.

So, I contend we’re in this together, figuring out how best to include/implement social media. I will say this: I know my firm is way ahead of the game vs. other like-sized or larger firms.

That said, I celebrate campaigns we do that embrace technology to create real client results. I believe firms like ours are continually learning and challenging our clients to make a mark on the digital landscape.

— Rena Kilgannon, Principal


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