If You're Gonna Be Clever, Be Quick About It
A recent report from Forrester* rated The Lacek Group and 13 other agencies across 22 different criteria. Our total score vaulted us into the Leaders category, along with four other elite loyalty service providers.
One ranking was for creative services. And on that particular offering, we scored a five out of five. As the leader of the creative discipline here at The Lacek Group, I was justifiably proud of that score. But I wasn’t surprised.
For nearly 10 years now, it’s been my great honor to oversee a highly skilled and incredibly talented group of 50+ designers, writers, front-end developers and production artists who produce thousands of pieces of digital persuasion each year.
And I say persuasion, because that’s a primary goal of the data-driven messaging we create. As opposed to brand advertising (where I spent the first 20+ years of my career), which pays lip service to the idea of persuasion, we’re looking for a response. Today. Now.
The best definition I’ve ever heard of advertising came early in my career from a talented—but curmudgeonly—freelance copywriter. (He’d worn out his welcome at pretty much every agency that tried to employ him.) Since the idea of hiring a freelancer was still rather novel at that time, he would regularly send out promotional direct-mail pieces to agencies.
In one of those pieces, he argued that advertising was meant to work like a time bomb. That is, seeing a commercial for snack chips or a print ad about a bank isn’t meant to make you immediately jump off the couch and run to the grocery store, or head over to a new bank to go through the horrendous process of moving your checking account. (I haven’t changed banks in a long, long time. I hope it’s a little easier now.)
Rather, those ads are meant to plant a message to tick-tick-tick in your brain until it detonates the next time you’re standing in the chip aisle looking at all the choices. POW! There’s that brand from the funny Super Bowl commercial. Didn’t that guy have nacho cheese dust all over his fingers? I’ll grab that one.
BAM! Another bank service charge just for the privilege of holding my money every month? They should be paying me. Maybe it’s finally time to change to that bank that offers free checking and has an ATM near my office.
It was true then, and it’s true today. That’s how most brand advertising works.
But so much of the work we’re asked to do right now can’t afford to work that way. We don’t have the luxury of time—but we’re still looking for the bang. Forget trying to plant time bombs—we’re out there throwing grenades, trying to make something happen while you’re holding that phone in your hands. Today would be good. Right now is even better.
Let’s get that rental car scheduled for your upcoming business/leisure trip to the Phoenix area. Or check out the carefully curated collection of South Pacific Marriott resorts and hotels. Won’t you please watch this short video on the new health protocols and safeguards at Dunkin’? What a great time to scratch your gambling itch and take advantage of a great offer on a Carnival cruise next spring. Yup, call or reserve your place online. Right now.
That’s why we pay attention to details like whether the headline goes above, below or over the photo. How long or short or personalized the subject line and preheader copy should be. The color of the book now or learn more buttons. Every choice needs to be intentional, because once a customer closes or deletes that email, we’ve pretty much lost her for that day.
We didn’t have to worry about immediacy so much when we were creating dozens of television spots back in the day. Those of us in the bomb-planting business just had to make sure the logo was up there for at least two and a half seconds at the end.
Truth be told, the writing and design of an email, digital banner, landing page, promo site, etc., isn’t a creative exercise as much as it is a craft. Darn near a science, actually. Sure, there’s still room to be witty and have some fun, but you gotta get to it quickly. Don’t mince words. Don’t ask your viewer to ponder over your cleverness or perform mental gymnastics to connect the dots in your message.
Be brief. Be quick. Be gone.
That’s the new world we live in. If you’re good at it—and the results will be right there to tell you—your agency will be in business for a good, long time.
It’s 27 years and counting for The Lacek Group.
*Forrester Wave™: Loyalty Service Providers, Q3 2019.
John Jarvis serves as chief creative officer at The Lacek Group, a Minneapolis-based, data-driven loyalty, experience and customer engagement agency that has been delivering personalization for its world-class clients for more than 30 years. The Lacek Group is an Ogilvy company.