Tuesday, February 19, 2008

And knowing how ad agencies love to coin catchphrases and enrich our vocabularies, some words reincarnate with a vengeanceand emerge from mere webster ink blots to today's buzz phrases with a zing.

The word Reinvent, for example.

Though as old as your grandmother's grandmother, it is being given a total makeover to sound hip, timely, hardhitting and with a definitive purpose. Spin-doctors are using this one-word formula to relaunch their clients. Brand strategists see this as a great move to re-excite their targets. Management executives are echoing the same to re-energize their different teams. The same is being cascaded down to the last person at the bottom of the corporate totem pole. Marketers are employing the same tactics to give their brands and services added boost. Ad agencies are brandishing the word to retain clients' businesses and arrest shrinking incomes.

Competition uses it as a mantra. The whole town is practically mouthing the latest battlecry: Reinvent ... or die.

How apt when the industry had been marginalized and continue being threatened to the very core of its existence. A great act since we are facing even more difficulties in the global economy, market fragmentation, rise of innovative media and law of diminishing returns.

At the beginning of the year, Wall Street journal reported that ad agencies worldwide "are submitting to marketer' demands, however outrageous they may be to ad agencies. Clients were even calling for changes in the way ad agencies are structured and dipping their fingers on who's in the team, an unthinkable scenario from years back. But that's getting ahead of the story.

How some agencies are coping up

As global economics continue to cloud the future of the industry, the meldown, according to WSJ, "will drive more money to the internet - a much cheaper medium and has definitely more measurable reach and results."

In view of its big profit potentials, the online landscape is continuously being explored - with great success by global trailblazer Tribal DDB - Advertising Age's Global Interactive Agency Network of the Year for 2007 and Adweek's winner of the same accolade in 2005 Established in 2000, Tribal DDB today has 44 offices in 25 countries integrating all its interactive web properties under the Tribal brand.

"Tribal DDB's insightful, intuitive and dynamic approach to digital media gives today's marketers and advertisers the edge they need in brand building. Their achievement is a testament to the culture of creativity and professionalism that pervades in DDB. We are very proud of them," says Gil G Chua, group president and chief executive officer of DDB Philippines.

In Asia, its viral campaign for McDonald's in 2007 won "Top 10 Best Campaigns in Asia" and "Top 10 Best Interactive Campaigns in China" by Media and Digital Media, respectively.

Myrill Lynch predicts overall ad spend in online advertising in the US will grown by 2.3% and will surpass magazine spending in 2010. As technology becomes more and more accessible and evolves faster than we can blink, online advertising in Asia will also continue to rise, surpassing previous forecasts.

Other than harnessing the potentials of online advertising, ad agencies are becoming more and more creative in winning businesses from clients.

Idea Avenue, a medium size Thai-owned ad agency is offering an unorthodox commitment to its clients. If the advertising it makes does not sell the client's product, it charges only the cost of producing it. The one-year old agency is applying the tactic to compete in an ad market hugely dominated by foreign agencies. if the commercial does not bear fruit, the agency only a service fee. But if it works, it is asking clients to return a company bonus.

"No agency in Thailand has done this before", says Vichai Suphasomboon, the company chair and CEO. His agency expects a 70% rise in billings - from 300 million baht last year to 500 million this year.

And you thought Manila is a billboard jungle? Agencies all over Asia are squeezing hard revenues from this medium that has also been reinvented. Exert a little effort, put an ounce more, you may have a tri-vision version approved. Do more category-breaking campaigns never ever before seen, reinvent the usual ... you just might stumble into a billboard idea worth its weight in Cannes and other prestigious award shows.

Malaysia treats billboard as an outdoor medium 'above' the usual. For creative agencies, billboard has become a playground for creative minds to have fun and break the rules. We once put a nnequin below a 20-ft high billboard to make 'him' look like 'he' wanted to scrutinize and tes-drive the new Volkswagen passat. Clients loved it. People talked about it. Target bought it.

In Vietnam, office buildings are being reinvented as a medium to showcase agency branding and corporate positioning. Imagine an apple, a peach, a strawberry, a pear - all photographed in their luscious freshness, all of them with Vietnamese hats to express local insight, global standards. Lovely.

In Indonesia, an account director of Virus Communications said, "part of the strategy should include daring new alternative media that yet to be tapped to the maximum - guerrilla advertising, events and PR, online advertising and word-of-mouth."

A stern and one of the most feared admen in Malaysia once told us, "when people are not having fun when they work, the crap shows." That's probably one of the reasons why an agency set up its office in the fun area of the city, junked the usual corporate identity font and transformed it into a blazing neon light sign.

According to Nielsen Media Index 2007 survey, despite a backdrop of evolving new media choices and hanging consumer habits, traditional media continues to sustain their mass audience presence. But internet and cable television, traditionally seen as 'new' or 'alternative' media have strengthened their foothold in the mass media consumption palette in Singapore over the past years and moving a step closer to 'mainstream' media status.

In Hongkong, some ad agencies are reinventing themselves by re-investing on creative people, cutting down on fat staff and turning the tables on hard-to-deal-with clients who constantly put them on the threat list. Some spin offs choose only clients they want to work with to be more productive and profitable. Some are even even turning down invitations to pitch.

Reinvent. That seems to be the buzz word today, in a world that is always tied up whenever the US economy suffers hiccups. Should we do the other way around for a change? Take the bull by its horn, dump the same collar for good. That seems to be the real meaning.

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