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How to Fix a Broken Television Campaign

Jan 15, 2007  •  Post A Comment

By Adam Armbruster

Special to TelevisionWeek

You just hung up the phone with a client who called and said that the television campaign “is not working.”

What to do?

First off, resist the temptation to cancel the entire campaign.

It may be more likely that there is another cause of the clients’ unrest about the campaign’s performance. And the costs of designing and launching a new campaign will drain resources when there could be a much better way to improve results.

After designing and evaluating hundreds of television campaigns, we identified 10 issues that seem to repeat themselves campaign after campaign. We now use these “red flags” to review the elements of a current campaign before considering a change in either creative or in television media choices.

This simple exercise helps a client enjoy a deeper perspective of not only what a television campaign is supposed to do, but also what the responsibilities are for supporting the campaign with appropriate business operational systems and overall business execution.

Here are the red flags to look for when you get a panicked call from a client:

How is the campaign being measured? Is it with data or just a “gut feel”? What is the client actually measuring? Is it sales, traffic, profits or market share? Is the client simply bored with the message? Get a better understanding of what the phrase “not working” means. Changing a campaign too often diminishes the client’s spending power and certainly weakens your impact in the market. Before changing a campaign for change’s sake, think about the advantages maintaining it can bring.

Is the company capturing the leads generated? I remember a client call we received to cancel a campaign. When we asked what he was measuring, he responded “sales.” We probed deeper and discovered that his traffic had increased 100 percent since the campaign had begun-but sales had dropped. It turned out that the sales staff had been overwhelmed and simply could not handle the work pace. This was quite an awakening for the president of the company. Sales staff was added and the client remains a television success to this day.

Are all Web sites and phone systems in working order? This sounds obvious, but it’s so obvious that it often gets missed. Web sites freeze and crash, 800-number contracts expire and software fails. Any of these can happen at any time and business can be missed for hours or even days. I was in a meeting with a home contracting client when he was told that his incoming 888 sales phone line had been down for the last week. Sounds hard to believe, but it’s more understandable when you remember that many business people use cell phones exclusively and do not even call the incoming company land lines. Check the obvious problem areas first.

Is there any internal IT system problem at the company? Are leads generated from the campaign being logged to the proper source? Meaning that when someone calls in responding to the television commercials, are they begin recorded as a lead from television? Sometimes employees check off the first media source listed to save time. This is especially true if your front-end staff received little training in this area and does not regard this data as important.

Are Internet key advertising words purchased still functioning properly? It’s easy (and legal) to buy up key ad words of competitive businesses or words that just sound similar to their business name. Traffic could be being diverted due to a tricky spelling or to typos when inputting your Web address. Try this one out yourself.

Is a major competitor intentionally blunting your efforts? In very competitive categories of retail, business leadership can take measures to blunt the effects of their rival’s campaign. If this is apparent, consider a slight change of message but not a complete revision. It also just could be a case of bad timing where you and a direct competitor launched a similar campaign the same week. If that’s the case, again, slight campaign changes instead of a wholesale revision can work.

Was there a major shift in competitive stance in the market? Is there a new competitor entering the market or is there a merger that just occurred? Did a competitor leave the market? This can impact traffic flow and the type of campaigns you are competing with locally.

Was there any major client staff turnover recently? If you just let your general manager go, odds are the rest of the sales staff is busy watching for your next move instead of paying attention to the customers calling and visiting your store. Do not underestimate the cultural impact of a changing leadership on day-to-day activities in your business.

Is the schedule airing correctly? Confirm that the television networks or stations are airing the appropriate schedule that you purchased. This is especially true if you bought at very aggressively low rates. Although most television stations deliver schedules as promised, with less reputable managers you may not be getting what was promised to you.

Is the correct television copy airing? Videotapes and downloaded commercials could have been miscoded by traffic departments, so confirm that the correct ad is airing on the correct stations.

Notice how only the last two items relate to the fundamental issues of media and message. Many times we’ve taken clients through the red flag list above only to uncover a major business issue of which the client was not aware.

Now we realize that not all television campaigns hit the bull’s-eye, but when they don’t it usually is not the television campaign design, but rather one of the human factors in a business that require constant monitoring.

So next time you get the “Kill the Campaign!” phone call from a client, consider slowing the client down. Then begin to assess which of the red flags may be the cause. It’s my bet that you will find one or more of the red flags boldly flying over their business without them knowing it.

Your patience and diligence at such times can be very helpful to your client because through solving a major business operational issue, your impact on their sales and net profit will be positive, immediate and permanent.

Adam Armbruster is a partner in the Red Bank, N.J.-based retail and broadcasting consulting firm Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster and Co. He can be reached at adam @esacompany.com or 941-928-7192.