The challenges facing the Irish Advertising and Marketing industry

Challenges Ahead* We have more tools at our disposal now than ever before to reach, connect and communicate with consumers and the biggest challenge is to ensure that we campaign a single minded idea through all of the channels and devices available.

* The next challenge is that there’s too much time spent focusing on the myriad of technology and distribution channels than on the content we’re waving on behalf of our clients at the consumer. There appears to be a school of thought that how you connect with people is more important than what you say – it’s easy to forget that the message takeout and feel is more important than the distribution vehicle. It’s creativity that differentiates and builds relationships not technology. Marketeers that can harness and straddle that bridge are the ones that will succeed.

* Then there’s Mobile which appears to be the next Holy Grail but what is it: ad optimization, banners, apps, content, txt, social, unsocial, never mind the F word. Yes, people have an unhealthy relationship with their smartphones and tablets but they’re probably grazing on your message rather than dining on it – and it will be all too easy to regard mobile as a novel or shock tactic rather than as part of a long term sustainable brand building campaign.

* So all the talk and time spent on appearing to integrate silos, bunkers, platforms, teams is good but it’s not what our business is about. Creating or generating great ideas to drive a brand or service is. Too many marketeers are afraid of missing out and try too broad a range of things at a surface level rather than create the impact for their CVs by doing one or two things well.

* Data overload. Clients want clear cost effective measurable and accountable routes to their consumers and there is now a surfeit of data that would clog the arteries of any super computer in the Media budget allocation and Creative evaluation process though we look forward to the long awaited holostic Advertising research. Don’t forget that gut feel and instinct on the best channel for an idea can outweigh the rationale of the smartest statistician.

* The economy. There are signs of budgets recovering in Britain and the recent signs of bouyancy, particularly on Outdoor, in this market are encouraging but there will be no swift fix as this austerity ridden economy results in more austerity and retarded recovery. Commercial realities and expectations in terms of quality, production values, delivery, value for money have reduced or increased depending on how your fortunes have been favoured. The economic climate has ‘rationalized’ an entire industry.

* The challenge has been how to survive and prosper.  And it’s understandable, perhaps, that surviving the ‘order of the boot’ – as one customer put it to me when asked about a bland sponsorship sting – is far more important than surviving the debate for a good campaign. A great creative idea can drive sales and generate a sustainable media budget, not the other way round.

* We provide insight and develop relevant strategies and campaigns to motivate your consumer and add value to your brand. That’s our challenge.

* Louis McConkey is Chairman of KDNINE a lean, results oriented, communications agency

* This article was first published in IMJ’s Agency issue August 2013

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The Elephant in the Boardroom

fmcg, marketing, advertising,I have a thing about Private Label, we work in an industry that relies on getting a contribution from branded sales. Brands are not just taking a hammering from Retail Trading Negotiators seeking even greater discounts while maintaining net margins, but also by PL; as mentioned earlier it is reckoned that almost 30% of all grocery lines by 2012 will be own-brand. Tesco currently says own label accounts for 40%.

Private Label is invidious, it does not innovate, it imitates. It would appear unjust to Manufacturers who put in the hard yards and need successes to keep doing so. But Multiples are getting better and quicker at getting their versions to shelves alongside the brand leaders. These “cheaper alternatives” mostly inferior, would appear to be the right brand for these difficult times. Why?

Because Own Label is cheaper and consumers are now conditioned to believe they should sacrifice quality for price despite the fact that brands in a scramble to maintain a declining share have been reducing their prices and spending their budgets on promotional footfall for the Retailers and not investing in equity building brand activity.

Because Retailers increasingly view their Customer as being a loyal shopper to the name over the door rather than the brands which invest in R&D, NPD, Category Management, Brand Research & Support etc. and have tried to achieve a higher gross margin by pandering to an own label in their quest to differentiate themselves from their Retail competitors.

Because Manufacturers too have let themselves be dictated to by these Retailers – and in some cases their own Distributors – to join the race to the bottom and capitulate in eroding their margins and thus the contribution to ensuring the consumer remains loyal to their brand.

One notable brand I admire is Red Bull for maintaining – and being able to sustain – a premium pricing across all channels which affords substantial brand support which in turn perpetuates demand which ensures premium pricing and so on.

Another lays down a marker to expectant wannabes. The new campaign for Bird’s Eye “100% Polar Bear” neatly makes space in your freezer for Bird’s Eye Peas, Fish Fingers and Chicken Dippers and also deftly takes a swipe at Private Label.

Focussed, well produced – some say menacing – work featuring the voice of Willem Dafoe, the TV spots justify a premium positioning and pricing strategy as well as communicating the quality of the product offering. I’m quite sure the Polar Bear gives good ole Captain Bird’s Eye the boot, although he’s still on the fish fingers pack, and drags the brand into the new decade. It’s also great confident brand equity building stuff, not tricky at all, which will also drive footfall to the freezer cabinets in Retail and keep the Grocery Trade happy as well as boosting sales. It might just help keep private label advancing in the freezer.