Inside the Mix

Agencies should put their ideas to the test to make sure they can achieve client goals

Agencies should put their ideas to the test to make sure they can achieve client goals

When this column was first conceived, we toyed with many ideas for names before going with Inside the Mix - which conveys perfectly what this column, and this magazine, seeks to do: namely to highlight PR's role (and potential role) in the marketing mix a

One idea that we quickly scrapped (largely due to Donny Deutsch's CNBC show of the same title) was "The Big Idea." The thinking, to us, was just as obvious as the rationale behind the winning title: Ideas are the currency that runs through all marketing communications disciplines and are potentially the area where the most fruitful media-neutral thinking can be incubated. After all, a good idea doesn't mind who has it.

Learning how to spot the truly good ideas is something all people in the creative trades strive to do. After all, if a client has five firms representing five disciplines, all pitching different ideas to her, how does she know which one to pick?

The answer is often to subject each idea to testing. Sometimes it's as basic as a gut-reaction test - does it feel right for the brand? Can it be communicated easily and in a non-convoluted manner? Will it resonate with the target audience?

But by the time you get to asking questions like the last one, a more exacting test is often implemented. Publicis Dialog - an unusual kind of PR agency in that it's not just a PR firm; it also houses direct marketing and sales promotion - is particularly rigorous in testing the ideas that come from all disciplines and has come up with a set of "dynamics of amazing relevance."

A key figure in the development of this system is Steve Bryant, chief creative officer and president of Dialog's Seattle office. Bryant is a passionate advocate of a culture that not only allows the best ideas to win (no matter what discipline generated them), but also puts them through rigorous tests to prove their value and to also help establish which channels are best to communicate them.

To find out if something has "amazing relevance," it's put through a series of workshops (brand, connections, and data). Then it's tested to see if it has originality, if it's involving (i.e., it engages the customer in a two-way dialogue), and if it has an element of discovery. That's what sets a good idea apart from a great one, says Bryant: when it gives consumers a chance to feel they discovered the story for themselves. Maybe they got to try the product before anyone else, maybe they discovered the story through an unusual source, but the end result is normally extremely positive word-of-mouth. All these elements are given a score.

Dialog tested the model by retroactively scoring some of its previously successful and unsuccessful campaigns against it. Bringing Jared Fogle into Subway's marketing campaign came out a resounding success, which is certainly a good testimonial. The client was reluctant to go for that idea at first, however, and even though Dialog didn't yet have the model in place at the time, it now has a tool whereby it can show future reluctant clients just how likely it is that an idea will work. Now that's a good idea.

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