Marketing to the rescue

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The Independent Online
ADVERTISING agencies and their clients met last week to get to grips with all their marketing communications in a uniqueinitiative being pioneered by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers.

The occasion was the launch of a training programme designed to help brand owners, and those who advise them, to maximise the value they get for their marketing spend. Given the explosion of media possibilities, the new course is timely. UK advertisers are becoming aware of the folly of expecting traditional media solutions to be the most effective way to address new challenges.

"Total Communications Strategy" brings together successful marketers with a track record for building business through the excellence of their communications - the AA, the Alliance & Leicester, and Bodyform to name but three - with some of the more avant-garde strategy consultants.

The whole programme is built around frameworks that allow clients and agencies to think about their particular brand issues. Most conventional approaches to total communication strategy have been developed from the models for fast-moving consumer goods. But so much of what is marketed now is intangible - service, for example - that traditional solutions are rarely appropriate.

Another unique aspect of the course is that clients and their agencies are learning cheek-by-jowl, when normally their training is separate, with much of the focus on getting the most out of each other. Advertisers are facing huge challenges in making their marketing efforts effective. Research that we have conducted at the IPA showed that advertisers want a single adviser to guide them through the welter of opportunities. And they want that adviser to be their advertising agency, as the most trusted of their suppliers of marketing communications. They are concerned, however, that their agency would be too focused on mainstream advertising, at the expense of the other disciplines and new media opportunities.

At one time it was normal for advertisers and their agencies to swap junior personnel. Nowadays, due to a lack of time and concerns about confidentiality, there is much less of this going on. This course will act as a sort of "secondment by proxy".

From the advertising agency's point of view it is a great bonus for their mid-level clients to be encouraged to see how one part of their brand communications impacts on another. It is not unusual for agencies to discover that the main message of the advertising campaign is being undercut by some other area of marketing activity.

Take the case of the insurance giant that had become a household name through advertising the humane and efficient way it would deal with its customers' claims. Entering the unfamiliar world of direct response advertising with a new supplier, it was on the verge of agreeing to couponed advertising featuring a threatening thug with a stocking mask. Intervention in the nick of time prevented it from wiping out the millions of pounds' worth of goodwill it had built up. Shared understanding of communication priorities will obviate this kind of problem.

Miranda Kennett is director of training and development at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.