fun, but start-ups are more fun
January 3, 2000
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on."
what Jerry Della Famina used to say.
As the industry
adapts to the new Internet technology, will making advertising
still be as much fun? Sure, but it will be more fun if you’re
working at a start-up.
To be sure,
an advertising boom is underway in all media. Big ad agencies,
broadcast television networks and magazines have never had it
so good. Record fourth- quarter ad spending will spill over into
the new year, with 30-second Super Bowl spots going for $2 million.
Much of that
largesse is due to the dot.com start-ups are fighting to build
brand awareness and trial through advertising, and that spells
huge short-term profits for traditional agencies and media.
spending boom will probably continue into the next quarter,"
agrees Bill Perkins, sitting in his Silicon Valley conference
Madison Avenue émigré and veteran "big agency"
executive, is vice president of marketing at Visto Corp. (www.visto.com),
a Silicon Valley start-up. His company provides "virtual
briefcase services" to mobile professionals at its site enabling
online updating, synchronization and integration of e-mail, calendars,
files, photos and music. Visto’s business proposition is
immediate access to your data online from anywhere at anytime.
Anyone who’s ever tried to synchronize their Palm Pilot
with their office computer while staying at an out-of-town hotel
will understand the value of that.
like those of most Internet start-ups, is attracting an audience.
Perkins must build Visto from one million subscribers to 10 million
subscribers or more in order to achieve his aims.
the experienced Perkins is at the helm, Visto is running a targeted
print, online and direct-mail campaign to attract users. And like
many experienced marketers, Perkins laments today’s advertising
clutter. Even after the gold-rush fourth quarter, he expects more
spending and more clutter in the following quarter.
people are probably waiting for the Holiday noise to die down.
There’s been so much IPO money raised, and there is such
a strong demand for broadcast media," he adds.
With the Olympics
and the political campaigns up ahead, media spending likely will
likely remain high, masking a lack of adaptability within the
traditional agencies who have, after all, been fairly late arrivals
at the interactive-marketing feast. Most arrived at the table
via acquisition, not through organic growth, weaving a crazy quilt
of holdings that makes more sense from an investment perspective
more than from a client-service perspective.
the big agencies are still catching up," Perkins says. "The
real challenge is going to be integration. How will Madison Avenue
integrate all the agencies they’ve acquired?"
alum of several world-class Madison Avenue shops, Perkins avoided
a traditional agency competition (or "bake-off") when
he sought an agency for Visto’s launch campaign. He went
with San Francisco-based Left Field (www.leftfield.org), which
demonstrated a clear understanding of direct marketing and branding.
been exposed to some parts of the industry where they make a big
deal about concepts that have been around in marketing for a long
time. (Left Field) didn’t try to make it sound more complicated
than it is," he says.
remark reminded me of a recent visit to @d:Tech.New York (the
quarterly online advertising forum) at the New York Hilton in
November. A standing room-only crowd and I heard a representative
of an online media-buying service make his pitch.
played off fears that traditional agencies would either take advantage
of their clients or wouldn’t be effective in the area of
online buying, thereby positioning his buying service as firmly
on the client’s side: His firm could do a better job buying
your media because of their experience, their ability to aggregate
buys, and they used complex buying algorithms to achieve buying
efficiencies. His claim’s basis was similar to many I’d
heard from traditional agencies over the years, only updated for
like old wine in new bottles to me.
presentation, he told me his online media buying service commanded
20% of the media budget.
work if you can get it," was Perkins’ reply as I related
the story to him in Silicon Valley. In the old days, a traditional
agency was lucky to get a full 15% commission, and that was for
account service, research services and a full suite of creative
services, not just media buying. "Things will come back into
balance and equilibrium," was Perkins’ level response.
be the dope who pays 20% off the top, was my thought.
or perhaps mistake¾ is the notion that quirky, arresting,
"high-concept" creative will do more to break through
the clutter than well-crafted benefit-feature statements.
are far more dollars than good creative ideas," laments Perkins.
"Getting attention is only one element. Once you get their
attention, you’ve got to communicate something that is meaningful,
that helps drive the brand and is persuasive so that over time,
the advertising impressions have a bearing on the marketplace."
to Perkins, here are ten tips to follow if you find yourself in
charge of advertising and communications at a start-up:
focused. Define your objectives, and don’t be
distracted. Know your target audience and understand how your
plan is going to reach and affect them.
an experienced team. Bring in qualified professionals
with proven track records. Blend online and traditional experience
if you can. Meet daily with colleagues across the start-up.
is critical. It’s better to be quick than 100%
selection. Pick an agency whose work you know, whose
principals you trust, and that excels in the areas in which
you need support.
the right creative for the job. Don’t follow
the herd; intrusiveness isn’t the only aim of advertising.
think unconventionally. Creativity and breakthrough
thinking should extend beyond engineering. Breakthrough-marketing
thinking is as important as breakthrough product-development
your media mix wisely. You don’t necessarily
need network television to build a brand against a targeted
on the new technology. Use the new technology where
it makes sense; discard it where is doesn’t. Online businesses
needn’t advertise only online.
the charlatans and pundits. Trust your own common sense
and good judgement; the Wild West is rife with snake-oil salesmen.
the net impression. Ask yourself, "What will my
communication achieve? Will it shift target audience attitudes
and behaviors? Don’t spend unless the business benefit
still in the earliest stages of dot.com marketing and brand-building.
The good news is there’s lots of experimentation and lots
of resources to fuel the start-ups. The bad news is that a lot
of the money invested in the start-ups is being wasted. The challenge
is figuring out which investments are worthwhile and which ones
are wasteful when you’re moving at Internet speed.
As you move
ahead, remember, a lot of the principles of traditional marketing
are alive and well and applied in the new space. Don’t lose
site of the marketing fundamentals while taking advantage of what
the new technologies make possible.
regret his move to a dot.com start-up? Not a chance.
an incredible amount of fun. It’s about conquering a space
and creating something. To be doing that in such a wide open,
booming part of the economy is more fun than I’ve had in
the last 15 years," Perkins says.
Jerry Della Famina would agree.
is a partner with Diamond Technology Partners in Chicago. He can
be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.