Stupid agencies that don't know nothin' about conversions

15 replies
What's with the agency bashing?

The general discourse over here seems to be that "we, freelancers" possess some kind of knowledge that "they, agencies" do not.

That "they" are wasting client's money while "we" are so incredibly brilliant and conversions focused and .. and .. and .. I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

According to some people, it almost seems like that once you start working in an agency you're suddenly incapable of opening, I don't know, "Scientific Advertising" and learning a couple of (very basic) principles from it.

Sounds pretty silly, right?

The truth (according to my humble observations) is that no matter what a [dead_copywriter] says, it's not always just about direct response.

Brand recognition IS a real goal. So is image building. And tons of other things the "superhot immediate conversions" copy guys easily write off but agencies do day in day out.

And if you think that online marketing is all about direct response... It isn't anymore.

You need to start digging into what "them agencies" are doing. For example, brand and image plays a more important role now than even just a year ago.

To most people here it's obvious. Yet the "stupid agencies that don't know nothing about conversions" cliché is something I get to see a bit too often.
#agencies #conversions #nothin #stupid
  • Profile picture of the author Danielle Lynn
    Branding is much more important than some people realize.

    The way I sum it up - "Good branding makes it easier for you to sell"

    Yes, direct response can get you cold hard cash. But branding is a long term strategy.

    Every business (yes, including yours) has a brand. This second. Your brand is how others perceive you, the message you send to the world, what people can expect from you.

    Whether you choose to leverage it or not is another story.
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  • Profile picture of the author Raydal
    If you are a freelancer (which most people here are) then
    I guess that "those agencies" are your competition. So
    I wouldn't expect anything different.

    Most of the "bashing" for agencies from direct marketers
    come because the results of "branding" are not as measurable
    as direct mail, so they can hide easily behind a failed campaign.
    Not so for the direct marketer. Everything is measured in
    numbers.

    -Ray Edwards
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    • Profile picture of the author Mr. Subtle
      Years ago I read a book called "What Sticks: Why Most Advertising Fails and How to Guarantee Yours Succeeds." Over $112 BILLION DOLLARS is wasted in advertising in the U.S. alone.

      John Wanamaker (the retailer) once said: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don't know which half." (This sums up ad agency advertising.)

      A few years ago (maybe longer) Six Flags' advertising agency spent $50,000,000 on a campaign. (Remember the old guy dancing to electronic music?) The end result was a big fat ZERO increase in park revenues (but the ad agency made a sweet $7,500,000 in fees).

      Brand all you want on the Interwebs ... cause most of it can be done for FREE, but I'd love to see you guys put some big bucks behind some offline print branding ads. You'd better have deep pockets and plenty of clean underwear 'cause you'll need both.
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      • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
        Originally Posted by Mr. Subtle View Post

        A few years ago (maybe longer) Six Flags' advertising agency spent $50,000,000 on a campaign. (Remember the old guy dancing to electronic music?) The end result was a big fat ZERO increase in park revenues (but the ad agency made a sweet $7,500,000 in fees).
        I remember that campaign... and it sucked.

        Just like copy...

        There's good branding and campaigns; ones that connect with the target audience...

        ...and branding that totally misses the mark.

        I thought that Six Flags campaign would damage their reputation. It was way too cheesy. It wasn't even branding. It was just a poor concept that should have never been executed.
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        • Profile picture of the author OutOfThisWord
          There are far worse places than the big agencies and that is the big marketing depts. of big companies or even small marketing depts. at small companies.

          You've got several generations now whose only reference is TV and now even news is infotainment.

          Often the best way to increase brand awareness is to get someone a-wearing your brand and pinpoint direct marketing will do that faster, better and cheaper than any multi-million dollar image campaign.
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      • Profile picture of the author JakeDaly
        Originally Posted by Mr. Subtle View Post

        A few years ago (maybe longer) Six Flags' advertising agency spent $50,000,000 on a campaign. (Remember the old guy dancing to electronic music?) The end result was a big fat ZERO increase in park revenues (but the ad agency made a sweet $7,500,000 in fees).
        Here's an article in TIME about that exact campaign:

        Six Flags Ad: Why Use a Creepy Old Guy to Target Kids? - TIME
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        • Profile picture of the author Jason_V
          I have no strong personal feelings one way or the other about this topic.

          However, I will say this: I think the fact there are awards for ad agencies for "clever" and "original" advertising only harm not help clients of these firms.

          How easy is it for an agency to lose sight of the best interest of their client because they want to pursue one of these awards?

          The awards aren't based on results for the client.

          They get their fees from the client, and potentially one of these awards. An award they get to brag about to potential future clients, that makes those potential clients think they are "good at advertising." It also gives them bragging rights over other agencies.

          It's easy to take gambles with other people's money.

          As much as you may not want to admit it Matt, some of these agencies have ulterior motives with their "branding techniques."
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          • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
            Originally Posted by Jason_V View Post

            However, I will say this: I think the fact there are awards for ad agencies for "clever" and "original" advertising only harm not help clients of these firms.

            How easy is it for an agency to lose sight of the best interest of their client because they want to pursue one of these awards?
            You're right. A lot of agencies are too focused on being cute and clever, rather than stripping a new client's campaign down to the basics. "What are the benefits?" Taking that question and building an innovative campaign around the answer(s).

            Originally Posted by Jason_V View Post

            The awards aren't based on results for the client.
            Just like in Direct Response...

            It shouldn't matter how much people like the copy, it either works or it doesn't. You can be totally in-love with it, but if it doesn't exceed your conversion expectations, it's back to the drawing board.

            Unfortunately, that kind of plain, black & white mentality is lost on a lot of agencies that pat themselves on the back for what they think should sell... And if they're wrong, they blame the audience or the economy. But rarely take responsibility for being way off the mark.

            Look...

            We all fail, whether it's on the branding level or conceptual execution. However, it's our ability to respond and adjust that allows us the potential to become consistently great at making massive sales for our clients. If we don't check our egos at the door and embrace the opportunity to test different directions, we become victims to our own supposed genius.

            Originally Posted by Jason_V View Post

            It's easy to take gambles with other people's money.
            Anytime a client pays an agency or freelancer money to turn $10,000 into $100,000 or $100,000 into millions, they're gambling. That's just reality. Nobody can or will ever be capable of always and only writing copy that massively produces out-of-this-world conversions. That stands true whether it's a sales letter or major network commercial campaign.

            We are all always trying to innovate and that leaves plenty of room to make mistakes.

            It takes big hairy balls to proclaim the ability to generate huge conversions for new clients. Because no matter how much you've made for other people/companies in the past, there's never any guarantee you can do it for (insert name here.)

            Again...

            That's just reality.

            All of that being said... (and getting back to the subject at hand...)

            Taking the time to build a brand that makes money, communicates a product's benefits and produces a strong reputation should always be at the forefront of a copywriter's or agency's priorities.

            Mark
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  • Profile picture of the author Mark Pescetti
    Branding and direct response can (and should) easily coexist.

    A good brand lends itself perfectly to your hook and central theme... which are essential ingredients for any sales letter or VSL.

    And yes...

    It is long term thinking; it's acknowledging the importance of persuading how your audience perceives your company, rather than just using a handful of transparent techniques in your copy to make sales.

    Branding tells your prospects who you are and what you can do for them - so they're not left guessing. And that aspect alone makes ANY direct response campaign have way more teeth than the competition.

    Branding also gives your company a solid foundation to grow upon. It's a theme you can utilize in multiple campaigns for a whole host of different products.

    Mark

    P.S. Agencies tend to get the importance of branding more than Direct Response Writers. They're also thinking long term for their own company's success. A good brand can have tons of different facades and it's smart business for an agency to sell that idea/ideal.
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  • I've never quite "got" the brand and awareness idea.

    I can see why it's important for others to think good things about you (branding).

    And it's cool if 98.978% of your target audience are aware of you (...that would be awareness).


    But don't spend gazillions doing this.

    Because it's not so wonderful if all you get is - "everybody is aware of you and thinks you are great"

    And it's not quite utopia "if they only "want" to buy your stuff"

    You'll be much happier with a stunning Ad and an irresistible offer that makes sure they do.

    And wouldn't this automatically build your brand and create awareness as well...


    Steve
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  • Profile picture of the author Daniel Scott
    Branding and ineffective advertising are two different things.

    Branding gets a bad rap from parasitic "all show and no substance" guys, while direct mail gets a bad rap because of all the scammers selling bullshit.

    The benefits of branding are still measurable. It just takes a long-ass time and is a very involved process. But if your whole website gets a makeover, you don't touch anything else, and sales start going up... well, it's probably due to the branding.

    Of course, branding's a lot more than just pretty pictures. It also goes into how you communicate with your audience, the tone of your writing, how "hard sell" you are, etc etc.

    If anyone thinks branding's a load of crap in the DM world, check out most magalogs. One of my favorite's is Bencivenga's "Lies, Lies, LIES!" - built around caricatures of greedy bankers etc.

    I think we can safely say it wouldn't have done as well without that. Bencivenga said as much himself in his 100 seminar.

    I'm a huge direct response guy, but branding (particularly visual) isn't my wheelhouse. That's why I pair up with someone who knows it cold, like Danielle Lynn (and not just because I hope in vain she stops trying to push me off the bed in her sleep).

    But here's the thing...

    If you roll out a promotion and it bombs, you can't turn around and go, "Oh, but it's for brand recognition!" No. A successful promotion would do that regardless. Many agencies try to explain their way out of screwups this way, and that's why a lot of the grizzled DM guys don't do it.

    -Daniel
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    • Profile picture of the author Matt Ausin
      Originally Posted by Daniel Scott View Post

      Branding and ineffective advertising are two different things.

      ....

      If you roll out a promotion and it bombs, you can't turn around and go, "Oh, but it's for brand recognition!" No. A successful promotion would do that regardless. Many agencies try to explain their way out of screwups this way, and that's why a lot of the grizzled DM guys don't do it.

      -Daniel
      Exactly, exactly, exactly. Awesome response. Thank you.
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  • Profile picture of the author DanteRomero
    For the purpose of a general conversation, a person must forego existentialist discussion. Rather than worrying about the truth, the nit-picking, nitty gritty details, we speak in generalizations. It allows us to say in 5 seconds what would take 50 minutes.

    In that light, yes, as a tool of language, for summarization (and it's also almost always the case), agencies tend to be way off track. Turning it into a quest for the truth is to miss the point. Heuristics or "analytical rules of thumb" are valuable.
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  • Profile picture of the author TheSalesBooster
    "Stupid agencies that don't know nothin' about conversions"

    Who are they converting?
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  • Profile picture of the author ASCW
    I've worked for an agency that handled a large amount internet advertising in the U.S.

    Not only did I not find one person who even knew what Scientific Advertising is.

    Not only did I not find one person who knew jack-diddly about conversions.

    They constantly (and knowingly) threw client money away.

    Yeah it is that bad.

    -Andy Wilson
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