How can long existing advertising services count as innovations?
Q: Please don’t leave the topic of innovations yet. We have an important issue for your column to resolve. We’re an advertising boutique. Some four years ago, the five of us who started this small ad agency worked in one of the largest, global ad agencies.
We have been doing well. Even at the very start, we were profitable. That’s because we worked and kept working along the success formula of this industry. That success formula told us: “Have and keep a large anchor advertiser client along with three or four small clients and you’ll make money. If you get and keep a second large anchor client, then you’re made, billings and profit-wise.”
Innovating isn’t part of this success formula.
On the page where your December 6th column appeared, there was in the upper portion a feature article on Gil Chua, CEO of DDB Advertising Group. It says DDB won Asia Pacific’s Agency of the Year Award. The article attributed Gil Chua’s success to his being “an innovations champion.” We went over the article twice but found no innovations in its advertising offerings. Those were all long existing advertising services like “integrated marketing communications, digital and interactive media, media planning and buying, public relations and activation.”
Please tell us how can these ad services that have been around for so long and offered by all other large ad agencies count as innovations.
A: We wanted to take this occasion to interview Gil Chua so that we will learn the answer to your provocative question from Gil himself. But there was no time. The earliest date when that interview would take place would be mid-January of next year. That’s when our own schedule will allow.
So we decided to resort to the insighting technique we adapted from archaeology called “deconstruction research method.” We have written and applied this insighting technique in one or two previous columns. Very briefly, deconstruction is re-analyzing the past from its “artifacts” (like the dinosaur teeth and bones) to see what that past could, or even what it should have been. In the specific case of Gil Chua and DDB, those artifacts are what has been written in the feature article plus what’s available in the agency’s website and Google and others. From these artifacts, the deconstruction analysis draws out what are innovative in DDB’s seemingly commonplace ad service offerings.
Let’s now allow deconstruction to comb just two of those ad services. DDB’s Agency Profile in Google and its website do not give any details of its ad services. It’s mainly about its awards. So we will have to mine what we’re after in what the feature article covered.
The first mentioned ad service offering is “integrated marketing communications.” What’s different and new in DDB’s IMC that has made its IMC servicing revenue or billings productive? This is the question to ask if you wish to uncover any innovating that an industry member has been able to develop in a long standing “commonplace” advertising service. If you look into the history of process innovations in any service industry, you’ll find that some of the more outstanding business growing innovations came from someone doing something new in the most commonplace service but which was able to fill an underserved customer need.
Consider, for example, Bruno’s Barber Shop. A haircut service from a barber has been around for as long as any of us can recall. What was the underserved need that Bruno’s uncovered and then satisfied with a very simple set of process innovations? There’s a segment of haircut customers who often complain about their barber shop’s difficult-to-access location, uncertainty about being immediately served by one’s chosen barber, and not-so-clean and not-so-hygienic “servicescapes.” Bruno’s revenue productive process innovation consisted simply of easy-to-access location, haircut service by appointment, and clean and hygienic servicescapes. So is DDB’s IMC filling an underserved advertiser client process need of its advertiser clients or a segment of them?
There’s something more insightful in deconstruction’s analysis of DDB’s third ad service, namely, “media planning and buying.” These two ad services are much older than IMC and as old as the ad industry itself. The deconstruction insighting here says that it’s the mix or pairing of the two and the targeting that pair to a needs segment of advertiser clients that was innovative. This is assuming of course that this pairing is revenue and billings productive. What needs segments are we talking about? And how do such needs segments become sources of ad innovations in media planning and buying?
Everyone in the advertising media industry knows that ad media advertisers self-segment themselves into at least these three needs segments: (1) clients who require all three media needs of media strategizing, media planning and media buying; (2) clients who want only media planning and buying; and (3) clients who are just after the media buying service.
So in DDB, Gil Chua, who’s ever alert to changing ad media client needs, must have noticed the second needs segment, those after only media planning and buying, as underserved. He must have talked to them over lunch or dinner and learned about their MADI points regarding DDB’s pair of media planning and buying services. Incidentally, we’ve referred to MADI in several previous MRx columns as fertile sources of generating process innovations in a service which in the present case is a pair of media planning and buying services. MADI stands for what a client found Missing, Annoying, Disappointing, Irritating about the available media planning and buying services.
Deconstruction tells us that what Gil Chua must have learned from those MADI-led lunch and dinner talks, he then used to process innovate the way DDB offered and serviced these ad media clients to satisfy their media planning and buying requirements better than other ad agencies. If it raises and grows billings, that ad media service tailor fitting counts as a genuine process innovation.
We intend to still interview Gil Chua at a later date and then write about that interview. That should be a good way to validate our deconstruction analysis above.
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