Forget rate cards and flat testimonials — think creative solutions


Advertising volumes are dropping. The effect of advertising is going down.

Recently I saw that, compared to 20 years ago, you need to spend double the amount of advertising budget to get the same increase in market share.

This can mean a lot, but for sure it means that it will become more and more difficult to defend advertising budgets in boardrooms while we are in the middle of an economic crisis.

The first reaction CEOs will have is to cut the budget and to ask the marketers to find other and more creative ways to communicate. And I understand them. If the game is changed, you have to be fast enough to adapt or you lose money by spending it wrong.

This is not new. Ten years ago, I decided that our communication strategy would be a “referral strategy.” In simple advertising terms, “testimonials.” But it’s much more than that.

We did not stop to advertise, but we stopped to talk about ourselves. The only people who brought our message were clients and colleagues. Who else can be more convincing to tell people to choose us?

After a decade, we have a catalogue of hundreds of testimonials by clients that tell the rest of the world how lucky they were to make the choice for our company.

Until three years ago, we had to advertise these stories in media or by direct mail. Today, we publish them on social media sites, YouTube, and our Web site. Lower cost, more authentic, interactive, and ready to be published in places we never reached before.

We had a relative low media budget, which we still have. But we use it to ignite the traffic on digital platforms.

We can still be persuaded to advertise, but only when we can publish stories and tease potential clients to have a look at our “content.” We tell the story of our clients and where potential clients can find out that our reputation is true — from those who have the experience. “Been there, done that, and it worked!”

The traditional rate card is not clinically dead yet, but its relevance is declining. Top marketers will find solutions by themselves to use media platforms for their actions.

But the majority of local advertisers, and a growing number of companies that cut their marketing budgets, will more and more choose companies that offer solutions that start the storytelling. Which is why I think advertising departments will soon change completely into creative solution departments.

Cut your staff members who do not think outside the box.

Cut those who believe the marketing job is finished if clients advertise. Cut those who do not have a Facebook account or who do not use Trip Advisor, YouTube or These are the places people look for trusted advice from trusted sources.

Your clients want to be on those platforms, with the right stories. The job of the media is to understand this, to tell it to their advertisers, and to offer ways to bring buyers to the place where they find more relevant information than in a traditional advertising.

When clients tell potential clients how great the experience with your company or product was, the job of the marketer is half done. When you help marketers find the way to these places by offering creative solutions, your job is half done.

See yourself as part of a team preparing for a launch: Three-two-one ... ignition.

Give the power to your client to send his or her product into orbit. Once it becomes a success, the leader of the launching team will remember who helped to send the brand into space.

The role of media is to start the conversation about a brand, by cooperating with the ignition. Or to organise it. Time to push the ignition button.

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