HPM in the Press & News

Mistakes to Avoid in Choosing an Ad Agency - 1163485320

Industry Insider Exposes Common Pitfalls of Would-Be Marketers

PHOENIX (Nov. 13, 2006) — Remember the cantina scene from Star Wars? The original, 1977 classic, that is. As the camera entered the exotic alien bar, the viewer’s senses were bombarded with all manner of sound, color and shape – a cacophony of stimuli that masked whatever nefarious business was going on under the tables.

Today, a similar experience awaits a businessperson seeking the most from his or her advertising buck. The 21st century media market is complex and multifaceted. Like a latter-day Han Solo, however, one veteran advertising exec is capable of leading clients around the most common traps.

Peter Feinstein, president and CEO of Arizona-based Higher Power Marketing, doesn’t believe choosing an advertising agency should be a high-risk endeavor. His company offers their clients a money-back guarantee. He’s also willing to expose the 11 most common mistakes in picking an ad agency:

Looking for cheap leads. You get what you pay for, Feinstein says, no matter what business you’re in. “You’ll know “cheap” if you hear it,” he explains. “You just can’t get something of value for nothing, or nearly nothing. So if prospective agency is promising it can get you the cheapest leads, buyer beware!”

Relying on one ad. According to the Electronic Retailing Association, the odds of a single ad working are about 26-to-1. Don’t let an agency sell you on a single concept. “It’s always safer to test two advertising messages, so you have some kind of a benchmark against which you can measure success and failure,” Feinstein says. “Failure, by the way, is not a dirty word. It helps you see exactly were you don’t need to go again.”

Producing a whole array of ads. You only need as many as you can test at one time. Usually two are sufficient. Says Feinstein: “Unless you’ve got money falling out of your pockets and don’t mind spending it on expensive ad production, save your money and find an ad agency that won’t take you for a ride.”

Expecting free media production. “Forget it,” Feinstein cautions. “It doesn’t exist.” Think about your business: Do you routinely give away a profitable segment? Probably not. “If an advertising agency is telling you it can get you media production for free, be sure to carefully inspect every agreement you make,” he warns. “You might be signing away ownership rights, giving a royalty on all sales for a period of time – or worse.”

Fixating on “creative.” Don’t be creative for the sake of being creative. What’s important is that an ad produces a measurable response. “Great creative produces a logical and emotional connection that moves a customer to act,” Feinstein says. “It does not add words or pictures unless they help achieve that goal.” Put another way, it doesn’t matter if people remember a commercial if it doesn’t make people pick up the phone or log onto a website.

Voicing your own commercials. Unless you’re better than a professional actor, don’t do it,” Feinstein advises. “Your ad won’t stand out the way you want. An agency that tells you differently is just scared of losing your business – and probably not to be trusted.” With so many professionally produced commercials out there, voice and presentation have to hit just the right notes for an ad to be successful.

Believing your vanity toll-free phone number will handle any response. That could be true only if you don’t care about tracking the sources of your calls, leads or sales. Depending upon your needs, a campaign might require between 10 and 80 toll-free numbers. You won’t know until you discuss your approach with a qualified agency.

Trying to do without a call center. “Be wary of any agency that downplays the importance of a call center, sounds unwilling to handle it or says that you don’t need one,” Feinstein says. “That’s nonsense.” A call center is critical to tracking response to any campaign.

Believing that everybody wants your product. If you’ve run into an agency that is telling you only what you want to hear, chances are they’re lying. “The truth is, no one – and I mean no one – is as passionate about your product or service as you are,” Feinstein says. “But that doesn’t mean a lot of people won’t want it. It just means you’re going to have to work to get it in front of them in such a way that they are persuaded to buy it.”

Feinstein’s agency, Higher Power Marketing, specializes in per inquiry (PI) advertising – also known as pay-per-lead or direct-response advertising. It has relationships with media outlets across the country – radio, television, print, movie theaters and Internet – and access to their unsold inventory. The emphasis on results appeals to clients who care about how well their advertising works, not necessarily when or where it runs. “The client makes money; the station makes money; and we make money,” Feinstein says. “Everybody wins.”

What qualifies as a response is negotiated between client and PI advertising agency. Packages can be structured for a variety of results: per inquiry (any response), per lead (name and contact information) – even per sale.

But Feinstein warns that even in his niche, would-be advertisers often bring misconceptions:

Expecting to generate 500 leads in the first week. PI advertising runs on a space-available basis, which means an ad might not even run for a week or two. And elections, such as the one that just occurred, can suck up all of the inventory. “The watchword for lead generation in PI is patience,” Feinstein explains. “Once your advertising starts, it will be easier to gauge how long it will take to produce a certain level of leads.”

Thinking there are no guarantees in advertising. Feinstein’s agency not only is one of the largest players in PI advertising, but also one of just a few that offer a money-back guarantee. It agrees to generate a specific number of inquiries during the course of each campaign. If it fails to do so, it will refund the client’s money for the unproduced leads, less production costs and a 20 percent commission. In its seven-plus years, the agency has had to deliver on that money-back guarantee only a couple of times, but Feinstein says even those experiences weren’t all bad. “They’ve actually helped us get new clients by demonstrating that we’re true to our word. The folks at one company recognized it wasn’t a good fit for them – but referred other companies that have become HPM clients, because they recognized direct response advertising as a good business proposition and were impressed that we’d kept our word.”

With Feinstein’s tips in mind, go forth and advertise. And may the Force be with you.