JV: Wow. And the clients are receptive to this new approach?
Paul: We’re not doing this with 100% of our clients, but as clients move in and we try to get them on a longer-term schedule, the ones that agree to the longer-term schedule are the ones that understand that it really is about their message. And by the way, a lot of the stuff that we’re doing is based on the principles of Roy Williams and his books. He’s very influential in terms of what we’re doing. We’ve had him up here in Canada twice, and both times we put a busload of clients on a pilgrimage down to see him in Toronto.
JV: So the process begins with discussing the creative with the client?
Steve: First we get as much information as we can. The sales reps go out, sometimes with the writers, to get as much information as we can, information about the client, but more importantly, about their target and how their customers act and react. There’s a lot of information gathering that goes on before we really sit down and start to work on the creative.
JV: Are the salespeople armed with a form that they fill in during this information gathering?
Steve: Yes, and then they take it farther than that as well. Those questions that we do ask are kind of soft starters for them. A lot of information comes from the questions after the questions.
JV: Then it’s back to the station with the information?
Steve: Yes, and then we brainstorm. We get the writers, a number of the sales team, and people throughout the building, and we start looking at the client’s target a little closer, looking at the product closer, looking at the current market situation and the future market situations—really taking a close look at a snapshot of where they are and where they want to be.
JV: How much time would you spend doing this brainstorming?
Steve: It’s 15 to 20 minutes to 3 or 4 hours depending on the process we’re using. Then we take it back to the creative team and will sometimes brainstorm there before we go to the writing process. And what’s kind of unique to this is when coming up with commercials and campaigns, we often look at the positioning statements that will help position the client better or re-position them in the market. That’s something the creative team will work out as a group. They’ll brainstorm for ideas. Then we’ll come up with a rationale, then we’ll come up with a series of scripts.
Paul: A written rationale.
Steve: Yes, a written rationale that we all can kind of wrap our head around, and the client can see where we’re going and why we’re going there, because really, the scripts are secondary; it’s more the direction we’re looking at first.
JV: How much time generally passes from the point at which the sales representative makes contact with the client for the first time to the point that you have something ready to go on the air and the schedule placed?
Paul: We try to be as fast as we can be. In a perfect world, seven days, because the clients can tend to lose the enthusiasm of the process if it drags out too long.
Steve: I would say anywhere from five to seven days to two to three weeks, and a lot of that just depends on the process we’re using and how many times we have to go back and ask questions and clarify things. And we want to get it right the first time because it is a long-term vision. It’s not something we’re going to do short term, but we still understand our limitations to getting the work on the air.
Paul: But I can tell you, clients see it as refreshing when I suggest to them that, “…it make take a little longer, but you know what, we don’t want to go to air with your money until we’ve got it right.” And everybody else is saying, “Can we get you on tomorrow?”
JV: How much of the business is direct, versus national agency stuff where the creative is delivered to you?
Paul: We’re about 70% local direct retail. But with some of those, if it’s a multi-outlet operation, they may have a small boutique agency working on their behalf. But I would say, depending on the month, it averages out to about 30% national, 70% local direct.
JV: About what percentage of that local business would you say is being produced in-house?
Paul: I would say of the 70% that’s local, 85% to 90% is produced here.
JV: Goodness. Steve, do you have any idea how many commercials you guys produce in the course of a week?
Steve: We’ve got tracking sheets, and I recall emailing one of our reps with this information recently. I believe over the course of a year, we averaged 94 to 97 total projects per week, but I don’t recall exactly how many of those were produced in house.
JV: Would you say 20 or 30 of them are scripts that you guys wrote and produced?
Steve: I would say more.
JV: You guys are really busy!
Paul: Surprisingly, as we move forward with this process, the clients are understanding that they don’t have to pull their spots every three weeks or every two weeks, or have four spots rotating in a week. They’re understanding that it’s difficult enough to get that message through to customers without having to change it all the time. In fact, some of those clients are using the same creative that they’ve used for months.
Steve: That’s the funny thing about this. Often we say to clients, “run it longer, run it longer.” Now we’re in a situation where we’re going back to clients a year later, begging them to change their creative because it’s finally time.
It’s been effective and it’s working, and it’s really an unusual situation that we have. They’re seeing the power of it, and they’re understanding frequency and the importance of repetition and having to say the same thing over and over again.