SEMA News—February 2013
Finding the Right Advertising Agency
For Manufacturers, It’s the Ultimate Match
“There is a vast difference between a professional, experienced ad agency and an ‘art service,’” said Bill Holland, president of Holland Communications Inc.
“Carefully positioned messages, a feel for the market and compelling ad copy are required to get the best results. An Apple Mac does not make a marketer.”
Experience and expertise are fundamental. So is finding an agency that understands the manufacturer’s product line. But equally important is ensuring that the agency’s personnel mesh well with the company’s staff.
“The people assigned to handle the day-to-day communications with the client must be extremely knowledgeable about the market, the idiosyncrasies of distribution, the manufacturer’s product, their competitors, their sales strategies, the category, the history and what the specific goals of the manufacturer are,” said Don Fall, president of Fall Advertising.
“This person is the direct link to both major and minor decisions that affect the success of the agency and the manufacturer.”
That makes research the first priority when a manufacturer begins to hunt for an advertising firm. The agencies that we consulted referred to a number of easily accessed sources for preliminary information, including consultation with non-competitive manufacturers in the same market segment, the advertising and marketing listings in the SEMA Membership Directory (available either online or as a PDF download at www.sema.org) and through the recommendations of media professionals in both print and electronic outlets.
“SEMA’s website and SEMA News are good places to start,” advised Kipp Kington, president of KingTec Communications and the KTC Media Group. “Invest some time to find out if an agency provides consistently high-quality work, meets deadlines and can handle a variety of projects. An agency should be able to demonstrate overall reliability and the ability to grow and adapt to the market.”
Holland recommended also checking the agencies’ involvement in industry organizations, including SEMA councils, and he pointed out that an agency’s client base is an indicator of its involvement in various niches.
“It is so important that the relationship, communications skills and work processes are closely aligned between the client and the agency,” he said. “This is a long-term commitment for both parties and should be looked at as if it were a marriage. Divorce is expensive, time-consuming and disruptive.”
It’s also important to qualify an agency for the types of media it deals with. Consumer and trade publications are targeted differently, so an ad touting a component’s benefits may appeal to an end user, but its salability is probably the salient point for a distributor or jobber.
“Most products manufactured by SEMA-member companies must eventually be purchased by consumers, and wholesale buyers are much more receptive to a manufacturer’s sales overtures when they have recently been experiencing demand for that company’s products,” said Jim Wirth, president of Wirth & Wirth Advertising. “Push-pull marketing is one of the most effective sales programs in our industry because consumer demand pulls the products through the sales channels while the manufacturer’s business-to-business (B2B) sales efforts push them in the same direction. Manufacturers need to find agencies that can build that demand with consumers by brand name within the automotive marketplace.”
Meigan Powell Alexander, executive vice president of Powell & Partners, said that a strong background in research is critical to an agency’s work on either side of the consumer/trade equation.Read the complete article featured in the March issue of SEMA News.