24 Feb 2014

Choosing an Agency: Ortiz or Pedroia

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Agency | Maine
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You might as well know that I like baseball. A lot. I am also in the position of convincing very smart people that they should choose Rinck Advertising as their agency. There are lots of very good reasons. Fundamentally, it comes down to fundamentals (a baseball term) and how you want to invest your money in marketing.

So let’s look at the stats.

David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia both play for the Boston Red Sox. Both are superstars. In baseball speak, here are their current (2013) lifetime statistics:

 GamesHitsRunsHomerunsAverage
David Ortiz196920231208431.287
Dustin Pedroia1016121865199.302

 As these things are measured, both are clearly superb. In a lot of finite measures, Ortiz is clearly better. More hits, more homeruns, more runs scored. Until you realize Ortiz has played 9 more years in the major leagues than Pedroia.

And inside the numbers, something else.

Ortiz is a Designated Hitter. For the most part, all he does is bat. Pedroia is a Second Baseman, a key part of the infield. Pedroia is better rounded. He can “do it” with his bat, his glove, his legs, his arm and his brains. Ortiz is a hitting threat every time he steps to the plate, but Pedroia can advance the offence and also stop the other team from scoring.

And fundamentally, Pedroia averages something like 135 hits per year. Ortiz 119. Pedroia is about 14% better than Ortiz.

Who would you build your team around? The big hitter or the all-rounder.

Choosing an Agency

In the 1960s, agencies became “creative.” The Ad Man was revered and agencies were lauded for their creative ways to sell products. This hasn’t changed much. The stunt, the provocative ad, the crazy thing, is still the headline in our trade press, at awards shows, in the professional peer environment.

But I don’t think this is how the game is won any longer. And I haven’t for a long time.

In the early 1990s, I read Dr. Edward Demming's writings on Total Quality Management practices after WWII in Japan and was struck that the process of incremental improvement was a completely foreign concept to the agency business, although our customers – the companies that actually make stuff to sell, were embracing TQM and implementing continuous improvement practices throughout their organizations.

I was lucky. I was a direct response guy then, a database guy. I could see applications that were already part of the discipline of direct response. But the other advertising and marketing disciplines were built around the creative home run, the big hitter, accepting a certain number of strikeouts to get to the “big idea,” the Holy Grail, the award-winning, peer-aweing piece of work.

When Laura and I started Rinck Advertising, we said there had to be a better way. And while we developed a lot of aspects of Rinck that we think are a better way, one fundamental was simply “counting.” And we built our entire agency around that. With professionals in every area that count and are accountable.

The Importance of Measurement

There’s an old saying in Marketing, “I know 50% of my ad budget is wasted. I just wish I knew which 50%.” And you can change the percentages to make it funnier. Or more tragic.

But not anymore. It’s not acceptable to “waste” a penny. And we do that at Rinck by counting everything that can be counted.

That makes us a continually improving organization. And it allows us to adjust “in campaign.” We call it optimizing – in real time. And all aspects of a campaign can be optimized.

There is one more key aspect of our approach.

Going back to baseball for a moment. A player that hits singles is valuable. But a player that hits homeruns is REALLY valuable. A homerun scores immediately. There is no defense for it.

So, Rinck “tests” for homeruns. While we are looking to hit many, many singles and doubles and triples, everyday, all year, every year, we test with part of the plan to see if there is a homerun waiting to be hit. And since we measure everything, we know pretty fast. Those test results show us that in media, in creative, in a PR pitch, in almost anything, we have captured something special about the brand. We are just unwilling to risk it all on a client’s behalf without some science behind the hunch.

So How Do You Choose an Agency?

I don’t know. Really.

I know you have to like and trust the people you will be working with. I know you need to be heard and know that the agency will respond. I know that you need to see results.

And if it were my company’s money I was investing, I would want an agency that looked to continuously improve my investment rather than gamble on one big bet. One that understood offense and defense. One that completely understood the entire “game” and not only one small part of it.

That is the agency we have tried to build at Rinck. So far, so good. And if you would ever like to talk, I would love to listen.