Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Got a great idea, but need some input?

Sometimes you get what you think is a great idea, but you're not positive and you sure could use a little input from the peanut gallery. Enter crowd sourcing websites. For a small fee, you post your idea and ask for feedback. While not quite as focused as a focus group, crowd sourcing sites are a tremendous source of opinion from a wide swath of folks who use the web.

For details about the concept, dial up this piece on American Express' Open Forum blog. http://tinyurl.com/bp7mf97

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Nice package: clearing up a misconception

One of the misconceptions about advertising agencies is that soliciting help from one requires deep pockets, big boardroom meetings on Madison Avenue and hearing campaign pitches, with lots of fancy artwork atop easels.

That does, of course, exist, but smaller agencies often offer less expensive options and will customize a campaign (fancy word for “do you need a logo, a website, bus-bench signage, radio spots?”) to fit your budget (another fancy, and sometimes intimidating, word for “what do you want to spend?”).

If the thought of even a very modest campaign still sounds too expensive and complicated, there’s another option: [insert drum roll here] The Package.

Ad packages are simply various types of basic advertising, bundled into a single fixed low cost. They’re generally comprised of the kind of advertising that typical businesses need. One package option might be, for example, a logo, business cards, a one-page website and a one-page brochure. They can become more involved with print advertising, sales kits, promotional items, maybe even a Facebook business page, depending on your needs and … gulp … budget. The point is that an ad package created by an agency will yield cost-effective creative design and professional production versus going with that place in the strip mall down the street, Floyd’s Printing, Design and Knick Knacks—We’re Not Good, But We’re Slow. You also know up front exactly what you’re getting and how much it will cost.

If you’ve never worked with an ad agency but are considering it now and want to wade in slowly, inquire about advertising packages. They’re a great, inexpensive way to get to know an agency for possible future work while fulfilling a need now that we at Ryan William’s believe is crucial to any business: advertising.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Brand you

If you’re a small business entrepreneur, you virtually are your business. So what happens when you and your business part ways? Maybe you sell it for boatloads of money or maybe things just don’t work out. Where does that leave you? The simple answer is that unless you’ve taken steps to brand yourself as an individual, if your business goes away, so might you. But a strong personal brand can be leveraged by an entrepreneur to capture attention and bounce back.
Take Donald Trump, the consummate example of branding oneself separately from a business and rebuilding after a fall. His personal branding is so strong that most folks don’t even know the name of any of his companies, and talk about getting back up on the horse—the man has filed for bankruptcy on behalf of his companies four times.
Now, granted, Trump is the uber showboat and he’s now as much a celebrity as he is a businessman. However, as an entrepreneur there are two major steps you can take to build your personal brand and help ensure a long-term career as a business owner.
1. Actively sell yourself and your skills to the media.
No matter what kind of widgets you sell or services you provide, the fact that you're in business for yourself makes you an expert on a number of subjects. Identify your areas of expertise and spread the news. Blog about your skills. Send press releases to the media. Start a Facebook page and offer "friends" advice. Tweet. Join LinkedIn. Create YouTube videos. And, of course work in information about your business as well as yourself, which gives you credibility, offers a little extra-added exposure to your company, and gives the news media a wider selection of story angles. 
2. Create a personal website. 
When people search for you online, what results come up? If you build a website—which is becoming simpler via blogging sites like WordPress and Blogger—and change it up often to maintain its search engine optimization, you can help keep the search results that you want people to see near the top of the page.
Direct people via your tweets, Facebook page and other social networks back to your website. Link your corporate website to your personal website. And keep your material informative, entertaining and fresh, generating new entries to all your social networks at least weekly and at best daily or more.  
Sound like a lot of work? It is at the outset, but soon a rhythm sets in. Whether you undertake the project yourself, however, or contract with an agency (we know a good one), in today’s economic climate, personal branding is becoming a powerful tool in the entrepreneur’s arsenal.  

Friday, October 14, 2011

We’re going to spell it out for you

At the outset, this topic might seem a little sophomoric for an ad agency blog whose readership is made up of business owners. But as we can readily attest: Sometimes it’s the most fundamental principals that get overlooked. The topic? Grammar in your marketing, advertising and PR, and in all your written communications, really.

Your written words are an extension of you and your business, and whether that business is lawn maintenance or running a charter school for advanced students, your market has a level of expectation about your professionalism. And one of the marks of professionalism is high-quality writing.

You know the message you get about a job seeker who submits a resume peppered with typos, or the feeling you get when you read “expresso” on a coffee shop menu instead of the correct “espresso.” Well, if you want to keep from feeding that perception about your own business to your market, just apply the following three concepts to all the words generated by your company and you’ll catch the vast majority of poor grammar before it gets out the door.

1. Sit on it.

Whether copywriter, journalist or a businessperson who generates 100 emails a day, the more comfortable you get with words, the faster you can whip them out. Grammatically, however, speed can get you into trouble. It leads to transposed letters, misspelled words, you name it. So, let the copy sit for a length of time, and then read it again.

In the ad agency biz, we let copy marinate from weeks to a day to sometimes an hour or less, depending on the scope and urgency of the project. But you can be sure we have a zero-tolerance system in place that involves setting aside the words for a period of time. If your “project” is an email, then sitting on it for you might mean five minutes, and that’s fine. The point is that with the passage of time, your eyes recharge and get fresher. Also, because proofing your own work is difficult, a second set of eyes is always a good idea.

2. Read it aloud.

Reading silently and reading aloud employ different brain functions. When you read silently, the tendency is to fix typos in your mind and accept poor choices in verbiage—basically correct subliminally what is incorrect on the page. Reading silently concentrates on what is said.

Reading aloud focuses on how it is said. You can hear the words independently of each other and also their rhythm in combination. Typos become more evident, as do misspellings, missing words and poor grammatical choices.

3. Turn on your spellchecker.

The number of people who don’t use the spell check feature on their computer is astounding. Is it always right? Heck no. Will it catch every error? Not even close. If you don’t know the difference between a painter’s “palette,” a wooden “pallet” and the “palate” in your mouth, for example, chances are spell check won’t catch the misuse of the three nouns either. But what it does catch makes it a powerful and handy backup.

Of course, there are a lot more tools in the copywriting trade and if you ever want to while away an afternoon discussing them, we’d be glad to oblige. However, if your hands are full running your business and you’d like RWA to worry about your marketing- and advertising-related grammar, we’d be glad to help you out there as well. Just pick up the fone. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Who says there are no new ideas?

Each week the RWA staff sits at our Medieval Round Table to swill from our tankards and toss around ideas for our kingdom of clients. Inevitably someone pipes up with a “Oh! Oh! Oh!” worthy of Horseshack in Welcome Back Kotter and all attention turns to the excited party.

“What about…” it begins. The idea is pitched with gusto, but greeted with silence. I look around the table. We just don’t get it.

“You know,” Horseshack says. “It’s like that ad for ______ where the guy ____... ”

Whoa, Nelly, my equine friend. We’re an advertising agency. We sell ideas. New ideas. Not an idea that’s “like” another idea that’s already out there. That’s not a new idea… or is it?

Barbara Grizzuti Harrison once said, “There are no original ideas. There are only original people.” Now I haven’t a clue who Barbara Grizzuti Harrison is, but she must have been (or maybe is) one smart lady. She seemed to recognize that it’s smart thinking that translates into success. Sure, maybe your idea’s been done before, but it hasn’t been done your way.

Take Blake Mycoskie, for instance. Blake is the founder of TOMS Shoes, this really cool, progressive company that donates part of the proceeds of his business to the needy. A philanthropic business model? Rare, yes, but not really new. What’s new about Blake is the way his company helps the needy. Rather than send money or conduct fundraisers or other old methods, TOMS Shoes gives shoes to those without shoes. In fact, for every pair of shoes you buy, someone somewhere gets a free pair of shoes.

That’s awfully nice, but does this new twist on an old idea really work? Apparently so, Blake says in a recent interview. According to Blake, companies can even make money being the good guys.

Could you give away shoes too? Sure, but that’s already been done. “You know… it’s like that company ____ where the guy ____...” So instead of using someone else’s idea, take Barbara what’s-her-name’s advice and be an original thinker. Don’t know how? Pick up Blake’s newest idea, his book “Start Something That Matters” or stop by for our next round table discussion at RWA. Inside our walls, imagination has no limits.

Shoes Floral Purple Classic Kids Shoes

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Facebook Wants You

In the movie about Mark Zuckerberg and his partners founding Facebook—The Social Network—cofounder Eduardo Saverin is portrayed as pushing for the site to sell online advertising, which, in the early days according to the movie version, Zuckerberg apparently wanted nothing to do with. “We don’t even know what it is yet,” the Zuckerberg character says when Saverin continues to push his agenda.

Times have changed and Facebook sure knows what it is now.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has announced she’s planning a strategy similar to one she employed while VP of global online sales and operations at Google. Reports are that the largest social networking site in the world will begin offering $50 advertising credits to as many as 200,000 small businesses as early as next week. Why? Because just as at one time you probably didn’t even know what Facebook was and now you check your page multiple times a day, the brass at Facebook recognize that people’s obsession with Facebooking opens up a whole new advertising opportunity.

Word is Facebook will set you up with an ad that racks up a cost per click—say 5 or 10 cents—and spot you the first $50. According to Sandberg, that’s enough for a typical small business to target everyone it needs to at least once, recognize that the concept is a viable way to generating ROI, and create the latest addiction among Type A business owners—obsessing over their Facebook ad campaigns while sipping their morning coffee.

No word yet on how Facebook is going to divvy out the credits, but we’ll certainly keep our ear to the keyboard for you. Because even if you can manage to keep the cyber monkey off your back and not renew after your initial credit is gone, $50 is $50, and a lot of businesses are liable to get in line fast once the program is launched.

So Saverin’s idea wasn’t such a bad one, it seems. Just his timing was off. Maybe if he’d waited a few years to push for Facebook advertising, he’d still have his 30 percent stake in the company. But, hey, maybe with a few of your advertising dollars thrown into the mix, Eduardo won’t be living out of his Bentley for too much longer.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What’s in a name?

That which we call Schweddy Balls by any other name would taste as sweet. Bill Shakespeare would roll over in his grave if he read how we just mangled that (or Francis Bacon for you conspiracy theorists). But sometimes, depending on your business, the attention garnered by a shocking or irreverent message can go a long way to racking up sales. 

Take Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, for example. They just came out with a new flavor, Schweddy Balls—vanilla ice cream with fudge-covered rum and malt balls. The name pays homage to a Saturday Night Live skit featuring Alec Baldwin, a baker, Pete Schweddy, who sells popcorn balls, cheese balls and rum balls during the holidays. “No one can resist my Schweddy Balls,” Baldwin’s character says.

The Vermont company is introducing the new flavor nationwide, but in a trial first run in case the concept is just a wee bit too over the top. This isn’t the first time Ben & Jerry’s has shocked the ice-cream loving world. A spin-off of the company’s adored Chubby Hubby flavor, Hubby Hubby, celebrated the move by some states to legalize gay marriage. It’s too early to tell how well Schweddy Balls will sell, but the story has gone viral in a very short time, and whether you love the concept or hate it, it’s getting Ben & Jerry’s a lot of attention.

Now if your business is a funeral home or manufacturing nuns’ habits, this direction might not be the best option. However, with a little creativity, you can give virtually any product or service a twist that toes the line just close enough to grab a ton of attention and increase sales while not being overly offensive. If this blog alone, however, has you as mortified as Bill Shakespeare, don’t schwet it; at RWA we can accommodate the advertising needs and business philosophy of any company.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

What makes a logo cool?

So much has been written about what makes an effective logo—simple, memorable, timeless, versatile, appropriate (trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave … whoops, nope, that’s something else)—that you could blog about the subject indefinitely. But what makes a logo cool? “Coolness” is in the eye of the beholder.

One of the concepts we at RWA believe contributes to a logo’s coolness factor is a little hidden something that blows by most people. And, no, we’re not talking about the controversial subliminal advertising stuff. We’re talking the hidden symbols intentionally incorporated into logos that give the image a little extra oomph and may just work on a subconscious level to some extent.

This first one has gotten a lot of press, so you may already know about it. But it’s cool nonetheless. See the arrow imbedded between the orange “E” and “x?” It reinforces that “express” message.

 How about this one? Refocus your eyes from the tree to the white space that captures the likeness of a gorilla and a big cat face to face. Pretty cool, huh?

C’mon, this logo for Le Tour de France is epic. See the guy biking?

This one is a little tougher to see as well as to get. If you look closely, however, you can see a bear on the left side of the Matterhorn standing on his hind legs. The candy hails from Bern, Switzerland, a city, as the story goes, named after a bear.

Here we have a simple acronym for the London Symphony Orchestra. Or is it so simple? Upon closer inspection, you’ll see that it’s also a conductor with a baton in his right hand.

There are countless other examples in corporate America, but we thought showing you a few might get your thirst going for finding others on your own. At RWA, we crank out logos for small- to mid-sized businesses all the time, and while they don’t all contain hidden symbols, they’re effective and pretty darned cool—at least that’s what our clients and peers say.

So whether it’s time for a total rebranding or you’re just thinking about freshening up your image, RWA has the creative team to make your logo memorable and your business 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Rebranding: A pain, an unnecessary expense, or your next step?

Businesses of all sizes bring to the table now and again the question of rebranding, and the reasons are many. Some businesses simply want to keep up with the times and so freshen their image. Others merge with or acquire another company that requires a new face to reflect a new direction or product. Still others need a rebirth to distance themselves from a PR gaffe or even to gain distinction from competition.

For smaller businesses, like many of those we at the Ryan William’s Agency represent, rebranding involves advancing the marketing and advertising components that a business initially developed on its own rather than outsourcing to professionals because of the myriad of factors that constrain new companies. Startups face issues of cost, inexperience, time, a firm understanding of their own advertising needs, and more. 

However, a few years down the road, a business owner may realize that his logo, for example, needs updating and a professional quality added to it. Maybe the same goes for his signage, print ads, brochures, media kits and the like. They may well convey the right information, but in a somewhat unsophisticated package. After some time, an astute business owner using homegrown ad materials may begin to realize that, to continue to grow, the company’s ad campaign needs to advance. Designs may need to evolve. Photography, graphics and copywriting may need to improve. Even additional mediums—radio, online components, direct mail, social media—may need to be considered.

A good advertising agency doesn’t come in and completely toss out your previous campaign. At Ryan William’s, we cherry pick what has worked for you in the past and look for ways to improve upon those already strong concepts, as well as analyze where your poorer performing dollars are being spent and reallocate that spending to better-performing products. Contracting with an ad agency to rebrand your business might seem like an unnecessary additional expense at first. But, the additional sales reaped down the line from allowing a professional to recreate and place your advertising can actually far outweigh the initial expense of rebranding now, and leave you to do what you do best—run your business.

Rebranding isn’t as much a growing pain as it is a right of passage and a sign that your business has evolved to the next level.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Emphasizing “free” doesn’t cost much

There are so many messages today that businesses want to get across to their market, concepts of how to covey those messages through advertising, and mediums in which to broadcast them that it boggles the mind.

But, whether you’re running online banner ads or dropping leaflets from a blimp, there are a few basic concepts that have been around since Goodyear first launched its fleet of dirigibles that are as effective now as they were then. (FYI: It was 1912 when Goodyear started flying their logo, and at that time, it was more of a balloon than an actual blimp.) The concept? Emphasize the word “free.” Make it bigger than the surrounding text if you’re advertising in print; make it bold; make it a different color, uppercase the whole word.


Or, in broadcast advertising, say the word several times. Say it louder. Add affect. Why? Because everyone likes free stuff. That’s why you take that “Bob’s Discount Motor Lodge” tee shirt even though you have 100 tee shirts already that you never wear. That’s why convenience-store chain 7-Eleven nearly doubles sales the day of its anniversary when Slurpees are free and customers end up picking up an unplanned extra this or that. Heck, there are multimillion-dollar companies based solely around the pens, mugs, key chains, refrigerator magnets and about 1,000 other promotional products that businesses give away every day—for FREE. You can also convey “free” buy saying “don’t pay a penny” or “send no money,” but “free” says it all and it’s succinct.

Of course, in order to be able to incorporate the word into your advertising and make use of its magic, it’ll cost you. But it doesn’t have to cost a lot when you consider the potential upside. Sure, that frozen corn-syrupy goodness that 7-Eleven gives away each year, the tiny promotional paper cups, and the extra labor needed to cover the increase in customer traffic all costs money. But what the company realizes in increased sales for that day alone—never mind the publicity realized from the event, which leads to future Slupee and impulse-item sales—is remarkable.

Simple enough, but it works. If you don’t already, consider incorporating the concept into your advertising campaign, but remember where you got the idea. From us, Ryan William’s Agency. And no need to break out the checkbook. This one is free.  

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Avoid helping your competitors

The concept is this and it’s a simple one: In your advertising, sell YOUR particular brand of product or service and not just the idea of buying the type of product or service that you sell. If you manufacture fans, for example, and your advertising convinces a potential customer to buy one—it’s summer, it’s hot, fans cost less to operate than air conditioning—but falls short of why the buyer should purchase YOUR fan, you very well might create a sale for your competitor. 
Seems like a no-brainer, but helping competitors with poor advertising happens all the time and not just by unsophisticated mom-and-pop businesses. Cruise lines sell the idea of getting away from it all. Automakers ask if, by golly, you don’t deserve a new convertible. Internet service providers push how much faster DSL is than dial-up service. But which cruise line, which make of car, which ISP? Ads that fail to position the advertiser properly can sizzle with a call to action—successfully driving consumers to a travel agent to book a cruise, to a car lot to purchase a car and to the Web to research Internet access—but who gets the sale is a crapshoot.
Of course, convincing your market that it needs whatever it is you sell is right up there on the priority list too, but directly opposite your brand, not below. Don’t just sell “a” vacation, “a” convertible or DSL service. Sell that your cruise line travels to where others don’t; that your make of automobile gets 45 miles to the gallon; that your ISP offers same-day installation.
Simple? Quite, but sometimes it’s the small stuff that’s overlooked. At Ryan William’s Agency, while we’ve got some big, creative widget-selling ideas, we also won’t let you forget the basics. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Twitter Twick

When the news of Congressman Anthony Weiner posting a less-than-congressman-like photo of himself on Twitter hit the big time, a lot of folks asked, “How in the heck do you post a picture on Twitter? I thought the medium was limited to 140 characters only.”

Well, it is. Tweeting pics really means adding a URL to your tweet that links to a posting of your photo. It’s akin to posting an image on your Facebook page and then tweeting about it and leading followers back to your post. Here’s what you do:

First, dial up www.TwitPic.com and log in using your Twitter username and password. The home page will ask you if you want to upload a photo or video (yes, you can upload video as well). Click on the link and a browser button will appear that allows you to navigate around your computer and upload the image or video you’d like to share.

TwitPic accepts images in GIF, JPG and PNG formats up to 10 megabytes each in size and videos in most formats up to 1.5 minutes in length. Once uploaded, add your Tweet message, which is limited to 114 characters to save room for the link to come, and voila—a tweet appears on Twitter with an automatically condensed link to your photo or video.

Okay, so the concept of tweeting pics is a bit of a misnomer because the process isn’t direct. But it’s not difficult to pull off, adds a twist to your tweeting routine and is a nice twick to have up your social media sleeve.

If you like learning about these kinds of tools as well as bigger-picture concepts to help you with your marketing and advertising campaigns, check back to the Ryan William’s Agency blog often. We’re always blogging about something useful, informational, entertaining or just plain funny. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Sometimes it’s what you don’t say

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words, and although this installment of our RWA blog might be stepping on our copywriter’s toes, in the following three examples, they’d be right. We really like these print ads. They get the message across instantly and use virtually no words, other than a logo, doing it. Concepts like these don’t come along often, so when they do, agencies like to jump on them. Enjoy.

Bose Noise Reduction Headphones. Wonder how much they paid the model.

Lazer Bike Helmets. You should see the car.

8 in 1 Dental Snacks. No animals were harmed in the production of this ad.

At Ryan William’s Agency, we know that sometimes serious advertising makes you laugh and, if presented correctly, can sell a lot of widgets. Maybe we can work a little humor into your campaign. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011


There’s a consumer statistic that has been circling the earth since dirt was invented, or at least long before anything like the Internet existed: For every one praise your business receives, there are 10 customers complaining to family and friends about your product or service. Who knows if the math is still correct? The point is that people are much more apt to express their displeasure with your business than heap praise.

Now, however, with the advent of the Internet, there are convenient online vehicles to not only bash a business, but to do it in writing and anonymously if you like, with the ability to influence scads more people than the word-of-mouth of yesterday. Review sites like Yelp and Kudzu; social websites like Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Twitter; personal websites and blogs; even email give individuals the ability to shotgun their message far and wide with relative ease. Today, dissatisfied customers don’t just seemingly disappear into obscurity.

As damaging as a posted complaint directed at your business can be, however, you can use the overall concept of consumer online ranting to your advantage in a research method dubbed “hate-surfing.”

Hate-surfing involves researching negative comments and posts about businesses similar to your own to generate insights that can help you run your business. You’ll find complaints ranging from issues specific to a single business—i.e. “my food was cold” or “there were bed bugs in my room”—to industry trends across the board.

To search effectively, you’ll want to first acquaint yourself with the typical language used to complain in your industry. Do people often write “sucks” or that they were “ripped-off” or “ignored,” etc.? Then, you’ll want to narrow down where you research. TripAdvisor, for example, is a popular travel industry site where consumers air their complaints. Amazon has thousands of product reviews. You’ll find lots of restaurant reviews on Yelp. Facebook and Twitter pretty much cover the gamut. When you get into the rhythm, it usually doesn’t take too long to spot mistakes that other businesses are making that may prompt you to implement changes in products, service and policy, etc. in your own company.

Hate-surfing is an effective tool that we use at Ryan William’s Agency to keep tabs on our current clients and to help prepare when pitching new ones. Although not scientific, it does offer insight not unlike a focus group. And it’s free. So what’s not to like about hate-surfing?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

You too can YouTube

While pretty much everyone but the stuffiest among us agrees that Facebook, Twitter and certain blogs, etc. can be a lot of fun, no one can deny that YouTube videos hold the most potential for side-splitting entertainment. (And if you do deny it, reference “stuffiest” above and consider opening a LinkedIn account.)

Yes, it’s true; companies and individuals post videos of many stripes other than humorous ones. Anything from reconstructive dental surgery to personal political diatribes are fair game. But who doesn’t like to laugh? And a recently completed unscientific study by Ryan William’s Agency found that “a whole heck of a lot more” funny videos went viral last year than any other genre, except music and maybe those peeks inside the reactor cores in Fukushima, Japan.

The point is, however, that humor sells. And even if music as well as pain and suffering do as well, who has the budget to hire Lady Gaga and do you really want to associate your product or service with catastrophe? But for the cost of a video camera that you probably already have in your smart phone or digital camera and a little creative thinking, you have the potential to spread your business message perhaps worldwide.

A great example of this is Blendtec, manufacturer of the “world’s best blenders,” and the company’s tongue-in-cheek “Will it Blend” videos. Company founder and engineer Tom Dickson blends up everything from cell phones to golf balls to illustrate the power of his blenders in this hilarious series. While his blender stayed intact, his videos exploded on YouTube and so did sales. You can view them on his website at www.blendtec.com or dial them up on www.YouTube.com.

Miracle Whip is using YouTube on a grander scale, creating the “Miracle Whip Not for Every Relationship Contest” where the company is awarding $25K to the best 60-second video depicting how Miracle Whip either caused couples to marry or divorce. The promo video alone (http://tinyurl.com/3gt2hwm) is hysterical.

“Yes, I understand the marketing power of YouTube,” you say, “but I can barely keep up with the day to day demands of my business, let alone produce videos.” And that’s okay. The production of videos can be outsourced or you can start yourself small-time and infrequently. Eventually, however, when you realize the value of such a strategy, the likelihood of a video campaign eventually becoming integral to your business’s advertising mix is quite high. Think about it. Then give us call if you have questions.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The evolution of the creative team

Once upon a time, there were only a handful of mediums in which a business could advertise: newspapers, magazines, radio, television, outdoor, direct mail, etc., what we loosely define as traditional advertising. In just a few short years, however, the explosion in technology has not only created a slew of new advertising options—from social media to QR codes—but the industry’s evolution now requires agencies practically to have to employ Google engineers to understand the new mediums and maintain the complex mix.

This means the traditional copy writer/art director creative team has evolved as well. Effective copy for Twitter, for example, must be 144 characters long or less. Oh, and to be an effective Tweet, the message mustn’t hit the reader over the head with sales speak and instead subtly coax with independent entertainment or information. Effective website copy must be written for the Google indexing spiders as well as for the market for whom the site is intended. As for effective design, it must now work when viewed in mediums ranging from print to tiny smart phone screens to stories-high projected signage in Times Square.

But the evolution of the creative team is more than just a copywriter adapting his words and an art director her design to fit the new mediums. Because of all the ways in which a business can now advertise, there are a multitude of concerns and issues far outside the realm of words and pictures.

At Ryan William’s Agency, the typical brainstorming meetings to create a new ad campaign involve everyone in the agency because of the complexities involved. A “simple” website build, for example, which is just one small facet of big campaign, requires input from a number of unrelated professional areas—photography, copy writing, layout and design, programming, SEO, the list goes on.

Topics during our meetings can range from who’s going to clean and prep a client’s truck before a wrap is installed to the pros and cons of buying targeted or untargeted Facebook fans to jump start a social media campaign. We discuss the virtues of building a website using a content management system versus custom programming; how to address positive and negative website business reviews; the fact that Google customizes its search results based on what an individual has searched for and clicked on in the past, yielding search results that Google “thinks” you want. The variables are complicated and any one decision has a ripple effect throughout the campaign.

Today’s creative team is no longer simply the wordsmith and artist because the meaning of “creativity” in advertising has evolved to include science as well as art. Is the Google Analytics expert creative? Are website meta tags sexy? Perhaps not in the traditional sense. But, in today’s world of advertising, these are critical parts of the creative mix and, for the team at Ryan William’s, at least, as flashy as a double-truck four-color add in the Palm Beach Post. And if your creative team is having a hard time getting jazzed about Tweeting or tagging, you might want to find someone who finds these new mediums just as exciting as the old ones.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Quotations from some of the biggies in the Advertising Hall of Fame

At the Ryan William’s Agency, we like ad-related quotations that stand the test of time almost as much as ads themselves that are as relevant today as in decades prior. Here are a few of our favs, all from heavy-hitting members in the Advertising Hall of Fame.

“If you're trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, and the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular." --David Ogilvy

“Advertising makes people discontented. It makes them want things they don't have. Without discontent, there is no progress, no achievement." --Morris Hite

“It takes good clients to make a good advertising agency. Regardless of how much talent an ad agency may have, it is ineffective without good products and services to advertise." --Morris Hite

“The right name is an advertisement in itself." --Claude Hopkins

“When executing advertising, it's best to think of yourself as an uninvited guest in the living room of a prospect who has the magical power to make you disappear instantly." --John O'Toole

While the team at Ryan Williams hasn’t penned a quotable line about advertising practices and philosophies worthy of the Hall of Fame-—YET—-we do have numerous award-winning campaigns to our credit that significantly increased both brand awareness and sales for area businesses. We like to think that speaks volumes. Got a question about promoting a product, a business, even an individual? Give us a call. We can help, and you may quote us on that.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Let’s be clear about transparency

Whether it’s corporate America, the government or the social media campaign for your business, the buzz is about transparency, a fancy word for honesty. Whatever you call it, however, being honest with your market, your audience and the public in general is of utmost importance in today’s society because of the current and rapidly evolving future state of communications technology.

Whether you’re a fan or not of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, blogging, mobile websites, texting and the like, huge numbers of people are and are sharing up-to-the-minute news and information via these social mediums. Breaking news is no longer strictly in the hands of professionals who are limited to some extent by reporting solely what they’re told. Stories go viral every day, “reported” by individuals with a smartphone or a Twitter account who just happen to stumble upon an event—events as significant as the bin Laden raid in Pakistan to as trivial as what one ate for lunch.

Individuals to businesses to entire governments can’t hide anymore, at least not for very long. (How long was Congressman Anthony Weiner’s … ahem … photo on Twitter before he came to his senses and took it down?) The point is if it’s newsworthy—and as we’ve established, virtually everything is fair game—it will likely be “reported.”

So what’s a business to do? Two things. First, don’t fight Big Brother. Embrace him. He’s watching, and in the grand scheme of things, that’s a good thing. Run an ethical and reputable business. Treat your customers and employees fairly. Be a good corporate citizen. Go above and beyond. If there’s nothing scandalous, illegal or unfair about your business practices, and, heck, maybe even some wholesome qualities to them, chances are most of the news about your company will be positive.

Which brings us to No. 2: When you get a bad online review, a negative Tweet, a bash in the Facebook—and you will no matter how snow white you strive to be—respond honestly and in a timely manner, and express a sincere effort to address the poster’s concerns. People tend to respond more favorably to a negative event when there is a caring and understandable response to it than when the negative event stands alone.

That’s transparency in a nutshell. Keep your nose clean in the first place, and when a customer becomes unreasonable or a negative event occurs, address it immediately, publicly and transparently.

Got questions about social media and the direction of your advertising? At Ryan William’s Agency, we can help. We’re a full-service ad agency serving a wide array of South Florida businesses with their advertising and marketing needs, from print ads, television, radio and collateral materials to website design, SEO and SEM, and social media campaigns. Give us a call today.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Would You Like Fries With That?

There’s an advertising medium that doesn’t get a whole lot of attention—perhaps because it’s not as slick and sexy as a glossy magazine ad or social media, etc.—yet it’s simple, cost effective and works: telephone on-hold messages.

Statistically, incidental memory retention via the auditory system is quite high compared to visual means, which is why people easily and unintentionally pick up song lyrics word for word on the radio, for example, versus prose or other text they’ve read. Although not exactly comparing apples to apples, McDonald’s classic line, “Would you like fries with that,” boosted sales by 20 percent the year it was introduced, a strong testament to the effectiveness of selling to the ears.

Messages on hold not only educate callers—a captive audience, by the way—about your products and services, but the caller is generally more receptive to the pitch because he or she made the call in the first place.

If you’re not currently using a telephone message on-hold system, we at Ryan William’s strongly urge you to do so and can help you with the process, from selecting a reputable vendor to writing and recording scripts. Every day that goes by with your on-hold callers listening to music, or worse, nothing at all is a lot of unsold French fries.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thinking Out of the Box

While the phrase “thinking out of the box” has just moved past tired status and is inching its way up toward cliché, the concept will never go out of style. Why? Because creative thinking can yield some very simple albeit very effective advertising strategies.

According to our friends in the Ad Freak department of AdWeek.com, a British farmer was denied permission to advertise his topsoil business on billboards near his farm. So he stenciled his logo on a heard of sheared sheep on the property as a way to catch similar attention (as well as perhaps subtly extend a metaphorical middle finger to whatever governing body denied the permitting).

Although this budding creative genius was able to let his mind run free, thinking creatively doesn’t often come naturally for everyone, and even for those who are naturals, the wheels occasionally get blocked. If you’re having trouble thinking out of the box about advertising or any business issue that needs a creative solution, next time try this: Jot down a list of eight or 10 random nouns, select one—how about “lamb chops” in honor of our British farmer—and think of as many characteristics, concepts and ideas relating to lamb chops as you can in five minutes. Then go back to your real issue and see if a slight temporary rewiring of your brain hasn’t taken effect. In many cases, the short exercise simply frees up the rigid thinking that has kept your creativity at bay.

For those of you with continued ad-related creative brain freeze even after this exercise, you have an alternative, and it’s called Ryan William’s Agency. Mobile warm-blooded signage might not be right for your business, but creativity is what we do; we can help you with an effective strategy and an affordable campaign.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tips for Boosting Fans on Your Facebook Business Page

Whether you like it or not and use it for your business or not, Facebook is the real deal. Statistics show that 90 percent of consumers trust recommendations from people they know and that the majority of consumers spend more after a friend’s recommendation than they do shopping on their own. The key to spreading your business gospel is acquiring an ever-growing audience—your Facebook fan base. Here are some tricks of the trade.

1. Determine if Facebook is, in fact, a good fit for your business.

It is possible that your customers don’t participate in social media. If your market is the senior crowd, for example, your efforts might be better spent elsewhere. However, a Facebook page is free and there are some seniors who are savvy to social media. In addition, seniors have children and grandchildren who do use the medium and can help you connect indirectly with your market. See, you’re not really off the hook.

2. Engage with your fans.

Unless the information you provide is consistently entertaining or useful, if you don’t engage in conversation with your fans, sooner or later they’re going to fall off, which leads to them forgetting about you, which leads to fewer sales and fewer recommendations. Thank your fans when they compliment your service. Apologize when they criticize. Talk to them about everything in between.

3. Offer your fans incentives to stay current with your page.

Statistics indicate that the majority of Facebook business fans are so to begin with for the incentives: discounts, coupons, contests to win products or services, etc. Give your fans reasons to keep up with your business other than simply the social aspect of the medium. Along these same lines, offer incentives for becoming a fan. Again, coupons and other discounts work well but also newsletters and email blasts promising those same discounts work too.

4. Take advantage of the social aspect of the medium.

There's no stronger recommendation than one from a personal friend. Add the “Share” button to every post you make, and, again, if it makes sense, offer incentives to fans for sharing your post.

5. Advertise on Facebook.

As incredible as this sounds, Facebook is fast on the heels of Google and Yahoo for the most visited site in cyber space and is expected to overtake them both within a year or so. That doesn’t mean that people are using Facebook in the same way they use search engines. But it does mean that Google will likely not be the largest potential pool of new and existing customers forever. How you market to that pool via Facebook, of course, differs than how you market to them via the giant search engine. But take advantage of the audience. Again, it’s free.

6. Consider creating a landing page for your Facebook fan page rather than the run-of-the-mill comment threads that comprise most business pages.

New visitors and fans can easily click through to the comment threads, but a landing page is a great way to offer additional information about your business as well as create a call to action or highlight discounts, coupons and contests, etc.

The technology of social media is evolving incredibly fast and there’s a school of thought that Facebook might peter out in the not-too-distant future and be replaced by … who knows what. But at Ryan William’s Agency, the consensus is that it ain’t happening this year, and likely not next, and probably not the year after that. So, in the meantime, what other marketing and advertising vehicle have you got that potentially can reach the numbers that Facebook can, and for free? Even if you’re one of the believers that there is an end in site for Facebook, there’s still a whole heck of a lot of gravy left in this train before the theoretical demise of its usefulness. And at Ryan William’s, we can show you how to squeeze every last drop out of it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Really pretty ad. Does it work?

Last week the RWA team was reorganizing our library of work in preparation for several upcoming pitches. Although we haven’t been in business nearly as long as J. Walter or Ogilvy, we’ve already maxed out one server, a portfolio and our sample storage racks. Whew! A lot of ads have come through the portals of RWA.

As we prepared our portfolio for presentation to these prospective new clients, it occurred to the creative minds at RWA that we clearly had two categories of ads: those that make the portfolio and those that don’t. The ones our new prospects will see displayed in all their splendor are the ones that are slick and pretty, with innovative headlines and really cool graphics. They’re the ones that took home the awards at the ADDYs, the ones that we like to frame and put on the walls and boast to our friends “Yeah, that’s one of ours.”

Sure, they are great ads, but the ads that don’t make the portfolio often have the best stories behind them. They’re not pretty, but man! Did they make the phone ring, or what?!?!

Most progressive business owners want to see equally progressive ads representing their business, but overlooking the power of a plainer ad might mean you’re overlooking potential sales. It’s sort of like high school dating. Sure the cheerleader looks good on the surface, but that girl with the glasses who is head of the class is probably a better bet. Just saying…

Sometimes the plainer, more straight-forward ad is also a better bet. The classic example of this is an ad that legendary copywriter John Caples wrote in 1926 for a music school.

No one would argue that the ad is an ADDY contender, but it is widely considered one of the most successful ads of all times.

Why? Because it spoke to its audience is a straight-forward manner about just what they wanted to hear. The appeal of being able to sit down at a piano and amaze your friends after a few lessons at the school was and still is irresistible. Think about it. Isn’t that what anyone interested in playing the piano dreams of?

As creative professionals, we’ll always love ads that are new and fresh, the slick, the pretty, the cheerleader ads. But, every once in a while it’s wise to take a page from the history books. Ads don’t always have to be pretty to make the phone ring.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Subtlety Sells in Online Marketing

Ever know someone in a social situation who constantly talks about himself or is always working some angle for his benefit at your expense? It usually doesn’t take too long before you begin avoiding a person like that. While you expect a salesman during a sales call to try to sell you something, most people aren’t fond of getting sold by friends or acquaintances.

Social media is largely the same way. Individuals follow on Twitter, friend and fan on Facebook, read blogs, watch YouTube videos, etc. mostly to be entertained and to garner information. If you try to hard sell this audience, it takes only a click for them to make you go away and there are thousands of others ready to take your place.

The key to social media is that it’s social. You must engage your audience in conversation. As tempting as it is to tweet about your sale or tell that person on LinkedIn to call you because you’re an attorney and can help him with his issue, don’t. Simply talk to your audience like you would an acquaintance at a cocktail party. Here are some more tips to getting your message across without hitting anyone over the head.

Offer value.
Rather than selling that person on LinkedIn your legal services, post a link to some information that pertains to that person’s issue. The more useful information you provide through social media, the more people will remember you as the go-to source for help.

Respond to negative and positive comments.
Don’t delete negative comments; respond to them thoughtfully and apologize. Deleted comments are likely to get louder somewhere else. On the flip side, thank people who post praise for your product or service. This kind of positive reinforcement makes your audience feel good and keeps the praise alive for an additional period of time.

Entertain and surprise.
Followers of social media love to be entertained and surprised. Both are great vehicles to elicit fans and followers of your message. Think of an author or pundit on television, etc. who you regularly look for to hear what he’s going to say next. You can become that person or entity to a great many individuals.

Ask questions
By posting questions, you’re inviting conversation, which keeps your message alive and stimulates your audience. One-way information is fine some of the time, but mix it up occasionally.

Be transparent.
Nobody likes a fake and that goes for businesses as well as individuals. The more you share, the more your audience will believe you and look forward to your next post.

At Ryan William’s Agency, we’re regularly tweeting and blogging and posting on Facebook and the like for a number of clients who recognize the importance of social media, but are busy running their companies, and we do it for our agency as well. It’s one of the keys today of running a successful business. (Subtle, huh?)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Tips for Successful Marketing at Tradeshows, Conferences, Sales Meetings and Other Business Exhibitions

Exhibiting your product or service at an industry event seems straight forward. But unless you prepare a solid game plan in advance, you can spend big bucks with no appreciable impact on sales. Here are some tips to think about:

1. Establish a solid reason for participating in the first place.
In this economic climate, money is tight for even the most successful companies. Exhibiting at a tradeshow or other similar event because “you always have” doesn’t cut the mustard anymore. Clearly define and focus your objectives and determine if the show is worthy of the time and money to exhibit.

2. Select appropriate events.
One of the goals of an event planner is to get as many businesses as possible to participate—i.e. sell booth space. Unless you’re RJ Reynolds trying to exhibit at an American Lung Association tradeshow, chances are the show is going to let you in. Make sure you really need to be there. Is it a consumer event or B2B? What percentage of your customers will likely be attending? Will your competitors be there? What kind of impact might result if you don’t attend?

3. Set a hard budget and allocate it specifically.
Big events with lots of industry colleagues together all in one place tend to take on a festive quality, which can lead to lapses in judgment. Whipping out the corporate credit card for unexpected expenses—from big unplanned dinners with associates to last-minute promotions pushed by the show planners, etc.—may be money you wouldn’t spend under different circumstances. Unless something comes up during the show that really makes sense on which to spend additional funds, stick to the budget.

4. Market your business prior to the event.
Be sure to market to current and potential customers well in advance of the event. Direct mail, ads in trade publications, blurbs on your website, blog and Facebook business page, etc. that broadcast your booth number, specials for writing business at the show and basic reminders that you’ll be exhibiting are effective at enticing your customers to visit you during the event.

5. Create a clean and simple exhibition.
Tradeshows and the like promote a lot of competition for your customers’ attention. While flashy often attracts at the outset, the business message can easily be lost. Certainly try to pop among the throngs of exhibitors, but don’t confuse your customers. Keep the design and navigation simple.

6. Create and promote some type of hands-on customer participation.
If at all possible, put your product or service into the hands of your customer to try out. Signage, looping videos, displayed product, take-away literature and sales speak are all great, but every exhibit at the event has them. Stand out from the crowd and create some type of live interaction between your customer and your product. If you manufacture fishing lures, create an area where customers can cast them. If you’re a locksmith, let customers cut keys.

7. Be sure your exhibit is comfortable to approach and enter, and that your sales technique is appropriate.
Put yourself in the shoes of your customer. Does your exhibit draw in visitors naturally or is there some kind of metaphorical hoop through which to jump; and is it your plan to allow visitors to warm up to speaking with a representative or to immediately pounce on them with your ten-second elevator pitch? Eliminate barriers between your exhibit and your customers and customize your sales pitch for the type of customer attending the event.

8. Take adequate notes and record contact information during the event, and always follow up with your customers immediately afterward while your company is still fresh in their mind.
Whether phone calls, emails or direct mail, always follow up with your visitors. They’re the hottest lead for new business that you have at that time. And every day that passes following the event, cools off the lead dramatically.

Tradeshows, conferences, sales meetings and other industry events are a great way to directly reach your market in one fell swoop if you approach them correctly. At Ryan William’s Agency, we’ve been helping small to midsize businesses not only market and advertise themselves through the unique use of print, online, social media, and radio and television, but we’ve been preparing them for the “Big Show” as well, and we can help you too.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Has Newspaper Advertising Become Obsolete?

There’s no doubt about it: With the advent of the Internet, newspaper readership, in general, is dramatically waning—especially where dailies are concerned. Many papers around the country have folded and the remaining players have staffs and newspapers that are likely a fraction of their former size. However, there still are benefits to newspaper advertising and situations when buying display space makes sense.

When making your advertising decisions, think about the following to help determine if newspapers might fit into your campaign.

* A newspaper ad is tangible, and concepts read from a hard copy versus other mediums, especially electronic, are often easier to understand and remember. That’s one of the reasons why, still to this day, most anything created electronically that absolutely must be free of errors includes a round of proofing on paper.

* A newspaper ad tends to hold the reader’s attention longer than some other forms of advertising. Sure, you can always turn the page, but electronic media encourages taking in smaller bits of information faster than the concept of reading a newspaper. A new Web page or television station is just a click away. People tend to take time with a newspaper.

* Studies indicate that newspaper readers are generally an older, better educated and more affluent demographic, which, depending on your product or service, can be a real advantage.

* An upside to the newspaper industry shrinking is that there are fewer ads against which to compete, so you can expect better exposure than in the past.

* Consider where very large companies—those who likely know best where to spend their ad dollars--advertise. Online? Of course. Television? Radio? Certainly. However, open your daily paper and you’ll see they are there as well. Why? Because given the right timing, display size and a product or service suitable for a newspaper’s primary demographic, newspaper ads pull.

Sure there are a lot snazzier, sexier medias to advertise in these days, but don’t count newspaper out of your media mix. Print can still play a very effective part of your company’s marketing plan given the right message aimed at the right audience. Not sure who or what that is? We know some people who can help you with that.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Facing down Facebook: Do you really need fans for your business?

Over our favorite takeout lunch last week – Tuna Bombs from Jon Smith Subs – we got into a conversation about using Facebook to promote businesses.

“What do I need a Facebook page for?” Our client asked.

Ah, there it is. The question on the minds of over half the small business owners in the United States who have, to date, bucked the trend and refused to bow to the frenzy of Facebook. These companies remain fanless and friendless, but is that really such a bad thing? What are fans and friends gonna do for your company?

A lot, most experts agree, assuming, of course, that you do Facebook right. And that, for the other half of small business owners who do have company pages on Facebook, is the biggest challenge of all.

First, though, the original question: What do you need a Facebook page for? Well, the latest count of Facebook users stands around 500 million. That means 1 out of every 13 people on the face of the earth use Facebook with half of them logging on every day. So, suppose we told you your company could have the potential of reaching a fraction of 500 million people – let’s say just .00001% of them – for free. That’s 5,000 people and you don’t have to spend a dime. How much would it cost you to reach 5,000 people on TV or in the newspaper? It sure wouldn’t be free.

So, at the very least you should have a Facebook page because… it’s free! If you get one sale from someone who found you on Facebook, the return on investment blows away any other form of marketing.

We’re not encouraging you to just post a Facebook page and leave it there to gather dust. You’re going to have to put a little effort into this, but figuring out what to put on Facebook is not as daunting as it might seem. The main thing to consider is your audience. Who do you want to talk to? This isn’t much different than marketing on any other medium. If you want to talk to men about power tools, chances are you wouldn’t run a TV ad on Dr. Phil. It’s just not the right message for the audience. So, figure out who you’re talking to and fine-tune your messages to those people. Still stuck on a Facebook strategy? Inc Magazine has some great tips for creating an effective Facebook page.

If you need further inspiration, check out these 20 companies that have awesome Facebook pages.

Good luck getting on Facebook. Look us up when you get there. We’ll be your biggest fans!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Learning to be creative

We’ve all heard someone who’s being tapped for a little creativity say, “but I don’t have a creative bone in my body.” And we usually take them at their word and move on without much rebuttal to the more lampshade-wearing types in the room. It’s almost as if we believe creativity is a natural born quality—like red hair—either you got it or you ain’t. Even in the advertising industry, we tend to compartmentalize people into artsy, quirky, techie, salesy, etc. and assign in our head whether somebody is creative or not and, if so, where his creative strength lies—as in, “Sure, Juan can whip out a creative solution to a difficult website architecture in his sleep, but he doesn’t get a single ‘chicken crossed the road’ joke.”

While it’s true that some folks are creative and others aren’t, to just accept that you’re not is a copout. Anyone can learn to be more creative if they want to and here’s how to start:

To be creative, you have to first believe you are creative.
Positive reinforcement. Your inner voice. Mentally picturing yourself making the big play as opposed to dropping the ball. Everyone has the ability to be creative, but if you don’t believe you do, you won’t be. It’s no big secret. Just hold the creative vision.

Ask creative people about their process.
At Ryan William’s, we have weekly brainstorming sessions with the entire agency to hatch creative for new and existing clients. Some of the crew write down words and phrases and play with them on paper to get the juices flowing. Others sketch or doodle. Still others surf around on their laptop or smart phone. We’ve even got one guy who closes his eyes and looks like he’s nodding off, and then all of a sudden out will come an idea that rocks the room. These folks may not even realize that what they’re doing is a creative process, but indeed it is. Try them out and see what feels comfortable and natural.

Change up your routine.
Listen to a different radio station or watch a different show on television. Eat something you normally wouldn’t or eat at a different time of day. Hang out with someone new. Take a class. Read a new blog. Go to a stock car race if you’re an opera fan. You get the idea. Change is stimulating and promotes not only fresh individual concepts, but links those seemingly unrelated ideas and builds upon them.

Stay ready to be creative.
You never know when anything from a seemingly inconsequential fleeting thought that might come in handy later to an utter brainstorm is going to pop into your head, so you want to stay ready. Carry with you a pen and pad, smart phone or mini-recorder, etc. to immediately note these ideas when they come. It’s likely that a great many strokes of genius came and went in the middle of the night because there wasn’t a paper and pencil on the nightstand, but we’ll never know for sure, will we?

Take the learning process a step further.
A lot of data suggests that deliberate exercise of the brain—word games; learning a new language or musical instrument; solving riddles and brain teasers or any of hundreds of methods—improves overall brain function and helps develop creativity. Pick one and try it. Who knows, you may find yourself moving from the accounting department over to marketing, and although we’re sure we’ll hear about this from our right-brained followers, marketing and advertising is WAY more fun than accounting.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Looking to the future. Does your ad agency have a bright one?

One of the biggest challenges of the advertising industry is keeping pace with the many changes that span all types of media. Almost all advertising mediums undergo constant evolution as technology improves and creative teams find new ways to get more creative. However, with the onset of advertising and marketing through social media, not only is this exciting new medium itself evolving at light speed, but its influence on traditional advertising has effected more change in just a few short years than we’ve seen in probably half a century.

In an industry where speed records are being broken on a daily basis, is your agency keeping pace with this change? More importantly, is your agency equipped to adapt to future change that promises to come at a furious rate?

As the internet and mobile technologies continue to shape the future of the industry, advertising agencies must decide what they are going to be when they grow up. Some agencies will opt to stick with more traditional mediums, continuing to provide strong strategies and messaging in print, outdoor, direct mail, television and other long-standing media channels. Staying with the tried and true is fine, but any agency must recognize the power of the many new mediums whether or not they choose to offer marketing within them as part of their service offerings.

If you decide to venture into social media, mobile marketing or any other evolving medium, it is important to know that your current agency or a new firm you might be interviewing have a grasp on where the industry is today and where it’s likely going. Blogging, tweeting, posting on Facebook and YouTube, optimizing your website for search engines, or marketing via mobile phones not only takes a lot of time and know-how; like any other medium, it takes solid strategy and execution to succeed. The right choice for a marketing partner is a company that can combine the traditional aspects of marketing planning and strategy with the cutting-edge power of the latest technology.

Creativity, of course, is essential and awards for print ads, brochures, truck wraps, radio and television spots and more are great indicators that your agency can draw some attention to your business, but great creative in traditional mediums doesn’t always translate into the more interactive new mediums. Whether you’re using QR codes or mobile messaging, your agency must be able to marry provocative creative with a unique user experience to make a campaign successful. Tools like Twitter aren’t just for following Ashton Kutcher around Hollywood; they’re tangible marketing tools that if implemented and maintained correctly can raise to the first page of Google, right under “Dell Computers,” some one-man garage operation in Ocala, Florida, selling computer parts on EBay. An exaggeration? Okay, maybe a little, but you get the idea.

This isn’t to say that your ad agency has to have a team of ex-Google engineers running your social media or mobile campaign. Many concepts are more time-consuming than they are difficult to master, and although a lot of what’s going on in this arena is fast becoming common knowledge, it takes a lot of concerted effort to pull it off correctly.

The bottom line is that these new marketing mediums are powerful stuff that virtually every business needs to be doing now, in some way, shape or form, either itself or through an ad agency. If you do choose the agency route, however, we know just the one to get you well on your way to turning those virtual online messages that seemingly just flit around in cyber

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Subtle Sex Sells Too

We’ve seen splashier advertising, but once in a while something comes along with just the right blend of humor, sophistication, sex appeal and simplicity that it deserves its 15 seconds of fame. And, thanks to www.adweek.com/adfreak, we think this billboard advertising Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is one.

This brand of tasty creativity is akin to a Bill Cosby standup routine versus an Eddy Murphy gig. During their prime, each would leave you with a little pee pee in your shorts. But while Murphy’s brand of comedy involved language that would have death row inmates turning their heads like dogs deciphering Latin, Cosby could get across risqué concepts without using words any darker than … well … “pee pee.”

Is one a higher art form and the other lower? That’s a discussion for a different day. But in today’s world of advertising, there’s room for both kinds as well as for every shade in between, depending on your product and market. Sometimes, however, with all the obvious wordplays and creative advertising brainstorms that are generated today, we can forget how powerful a tool subtlety can be. Thanks for the reminder, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. We’ll keep that concept on the back burner.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How much should you spend on advertising?

Ahhh, the age-old question, and when the answer is being provided by an ad agency, you might feel a bit suspect. Wary or not, however, there are guidelines to advertising expenditures; the numbers are tangible and the concepts behind them more black and white than you might realize.

While there are, of course, many variables—including industry, business size, growth rate desired, etc.—both the Counselors to America’s Small Business (SCORE) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) define an adequate small-business advertising and marketing budget to be between 2% and 10% of sales.

Sound like a lot? It is. And frankly, most companies under-spend, believing that not to spend is to save. Unfortunately, this strategy can backfire. You’ve heard the old adage “you have to spend money to make money” right? Well, when it comes to your advertising and marketing efforts, the money you spend does directly affect your revenue. It’s a tough concept to swallow, but during lean periods like the recent economic downtown is not the time to cut back.

Too often businesses estimate their annual sales, subtract overhead and inventory, etc.
and then allocate anything left over to pay for advertising. When you consider that you must advertise to generate those sales to begin with, you can begin to see why this strategy may not be such a good plan after all. A better strategy is to consider your advertising or marketing a fixed budget item on the front end of your accounting, not a number that waxes and wanes depending on how business is going.

The key is to spend your money wisely and carefully tailor your campaign to fit your market and fulfill your goals, and that’s where your ad agency comes in. We can’t determine your budget. But we can, based on your budget, your market and your goals, determine the best way to allocate your marketing dollars to keep those sales high to pay for all that great advertising!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Preparing for the first meeting with your ad agency

If you’ve never enlisted the help of an advertising agency, you might not know the kind of information needed to properly convey your business message to your market. Here are some general guidelines for what you should be prepared to talk about during your first meeting.

Give us the lowdown
First, you’ll want to give a synopsis of what your business does and who your markets are, as well as what your goals are for growing your company. Usually, we’re pretty good at asking the right questions in order to fit your company into an advertising and marketing context, but don’t be shy. The more we know about your business and where you want to go with it, the better campaign we can develop.

Identify the players
Who’s your competition and how do they brand and market themselves? Have samples of their advertising on hand for reference if you can. Be prepared to discuss what you like or don’t like about their campaign.

Determine why you rock and they don’t
What makes your company different from the competition? What are your strengths and weaknesses compared to theirs? Differentiation is one of the most powerful tools in marketing, and determining yours allows us to highlight what you do better and work on what you need to improve upon. Think about how brands like Harley Davidson or Apple stand out from their competition. Now think about your company. Is there a clear differentiation from your competitors?

Let’s see whatcha got
What advertising have you done already? Did it work? If you had to do it over again, would you know how to attract those customers you already have? Again, having samples of your advertising on hand for reference is helpful in giving us a look at the whole picture.

Who do you wanna be when you grow up?
Are there companies you would like to emulate? Do you have samples of their ads and branding strategies? While differentiating yourself from the rest is a critical strategy, having a good perspective on what has made others successful can often provide an idea of the right path to follow.

Don’t let us go hungry
Lastly, remain in regular contact after that initial meeting. While we’re experts in getting your business message across to your market, we rely on you to provide the message itself. Quality advertising campaigns don’t just make a big splash and cease. They’re maintained and renewed on a regular basis. Feed your agency often with all the news coming out of your company, from the seemingly trivial things like new hours of operation to the major info like new products and services. If the agency doesn't call you, call them. If they don’t call you back, call us!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Got a smartphone? Google knows how you use it.

No, this isn’t another editorial about smartphone tracking. This is a little on the lighter side … or is it? Google recently commissioned a survey to determine what smartphone owners primarily use their phones for and how they use them in terms of consumer searches, online shopping and response to mobile advertising.

Here’s the gist of what the market research firm, Ipsos OTX, found and what the Google spies uncovered:

1) Smartphone users are talented multi-taskers. Here’s the gruesome truth about what else they’re doing while using their phones.

a.72% of smartphone users use their phones while consuming other media.
b.70% use their smartphones while in a store.
c.33% of smartphone users use their phones while watching TV.
d.39% of users admit to having used their smarpthone while going to the bathroom.

2) Smartphone users are looking for you on their mobile devices.

a.95% of smartphone users have looked for local information.
b.88% of users who seek local info take action within a day.
c.77% use their phones primarily to search (57% of whom search primarily for news; 51% for dining; 49% entertainiment; 47% shopping; 32% technology; 31% travel-related info; 26% finance; and 17% automotive).
d.61% of those seeking local info were searching for a phone number to call a business.
e.59% of those seeking local info were searching for an address to visit a business.
f.45% use their phones to help plan activities.
g.44% of those seeking local info were searching to actually make a purchase.

3) Smartphone users use their phones to purchase the things they want.

a.90% of those who use their phones to search have take action as a result of a mobile search, with 53% leading to a purchase.
b.24% of users have recommended a brand or product to others as a result of a smartphone search.
c.79% of the survey respondents use their smartphones to help with shopping.
d.74% of smartphone shoppers wind up making a purchase.
e.35% purchase via their phones.
f.27% of smartphone purchases were made through a mobile website.
g.22% of smartphone purchases were made through apps.

4) Smartphone users will become customers in-person and online.

a.76% purchase conventionally in the store.
b.59% purchase online via a computer.

5) Smartphone users respond to traditional and mobile advertising.

a.71% of users search on their smartphones because of an ad they saw, whether from traditional media, online ads or mobile ads.
b.82% of users notice mobile ads.
c.42% of those who notice mobile ads click on the ad.
d.27% of those who notice mobile ads contact the business.
e.35% of those who notice mobile ads visit the website.
f.49% of those who notice mobile ads make a purchase.

6) Smartphone users LOVE their phones.

a.20% report that they’d give up their cable TV in order to keep using their smartphones.

So what does this all mean for your business? Well, these are only the results of a survey, but the trend is clear and certainly impressive. Coupled with what we reported in an earlier blog—that smartphone ownership has tripled in the last two years and that by the end of 2011, it’s expected that nearly a third of all U.S. cell phones will be smart ones—the argument for mobile-friendly websites is nearly inarguable, or will be soon.

Smart marketers are looking at how to reach their customers on smartphones. Just sayin’.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Online marketing that targets children: What do you think?

Marketing to children—particularly food items—is nothing new. Athlete and celebrity tie-ins, product placement in movies, commercials during cartoons, kid-friendly packaging, toys with purchase, placing product on the lower shelves in grocery stores, etc. are effective strategies that have been in place for decades. Now, however, there’s an advertising medium that captures its audience—children—for as long or longer than one of those time-share sales pitches that you have to sit through in exchange for a free trip to the Bahamas: online games.

General Mills, for example, has a game in which “BuzzBee,” the Honey Nut Cheerios mascot, can be dragged and dropped into cartoon panels to create custom kid comic strips, which then can be emailed to friends. There’s also a BuzzBee spelling bee game. The games are designed to reach children and advertise products, according to the companies that design them, in a fresh and new interactive platform. Those opposed to using the web in such a way, however, say the technique is just a click or two away from subliminal advertising.

The concept of mixing church and state—i.e. blurring the lines between editorial and advertising—is also nothing new. We’re bombarded with print advertising designed to look like editorial and editorial that’s becoming so stylish that it resembles advertising. There are television pundits with their own agendas who are projected into our homes under the guise of objective news shows. There’s Google pay-per-click versus websites that are found organically. Even blogs may offer objective and useful info, but many times are connected to websites selling products or services.

The difference, however, is that, as adults, most of us have judgment enough to recognize when we’re being marketed to versus when we’re being handed objective information. We take in the two forms of information with separate filters. Kids, for the most part, don’t because the frontal lobe of the brain—that part that controls judgment—doesn’t fully develop until the mid- to late twenties. This is why there are many laws and restrictions regarding advertising to children.

As a whole, the staffers at the Ryan William’s Agency don’t believe the BuzzBee games and those like them are evil. They’re creative, centered around learning and represent a new avenue in which to advertise. In fact, similar forms of online advertising are currently being used in the adult arena. Zynga, the Cali-based social gaming company that has developed campaigns for the likes of American Express, Nestle and McDonalds, currently awards players of Facebook’s “Farmville” who build their farms to a certain size a Farmer’s Insurance blimp. In its game “Café World,” you can win free Coca Colas. Prefer “Mafia Wars?” Loot from the movie Green Hornet is up for grabs in that popular game.

It’s an interesting time for advertising. Businesses now have far more options about where to spend their ad dollars, and it doesn’t look like the race for creating new ones is going to slow down anytime soon. As an advertising agency, we’re excited at the prospect of the creation of new venues for communicating business messages. However, we’re also well aware of the legal and social concerns attached to each.

We’d love to hear what you think about companies using online games to advertise to children. We invite you to post your comments as a parent, as an advertiser or just as yourself.