Evergreen content is useful in a number of ways: it can be used at any time, it saves content creators from having to constantly generate new ideas and it is easy to refer back to when needed. When you think about video advertising content, the term “evergreen” rarely comes up, however. Video advertising campaigns tend to be more trendy, and there’s always the risk that the visuals will soon look dated — an issue you don’t face as often with the written word.
So how can companies capitalize on the increasingly popular video genre and still create reusable content? These seven experts from Ad Age Collective have experience in what makes for successful video content. Here they offer valuable tips on how a business can create video advertising content that remains relevant no matter the timing.
1. Focus on educating your audience.
I think you can create an evergreen video campaign if you focus on educating your audience. Based on the industry or niche you’re in, marry education and advertising content. This is the best way to create evergreen content, especially for video advertisements, which is not an area where old content ages well. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
2. Build around things you always help customers with.
Clients are experiencing pains specific to this moment in time. Many of those pains may be over next quarter. Often, where we help the most are with challenges that customers have faced since time began. Build your advertising around the things you always help your customers do better — independent of economic conditions, political cycle, global pandemic, etc. – Moira Vetter, Modo Modo Agency
3. Create ‘how to’ and best-practice videos.
The most consistently evergreen content are “how-to” or best-practice videos. They will be relevant as long as your product or service is relevant. Broadly speaking, educational video content tends to endure well because it is tied more to a functional need as opposed to relying on other important elements of advertising, such as creative, characters, timeliness, originality, etc. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)
4. Leverage a Q&A format.
Focus on Q&A. When you engage with a prospect, chances are even the most informed will have questions about you, your business and the industry at large. People are inquisitive by nature, so feed into that curiosity by answering those questions in video format. You’ll pick up the patterns of frequently asked questions, so evergreen videos are a great way to have ready answers available. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap
5. Speak to the product’s uses and benefits.
It is possible to create an evergreen campaign, or at least one that a customer can refer back to, and this would be any campaign that clearly speaks to the product’s uses and benefits. A features and benefits campaign can be used to first launch a product, and when brand awareness lifts, it can then be used on digital channels to refer back to for product instructions. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising
6. Focus on constants rather than trends.
Focus on constants rather than trends and aim for a timeless visual style. Often, that style leads you to use animation (the side benefit of that is that it allows you to more easily take your content to international audiences). – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive
7. Create memorable and relevant visuals.
Create memorable and relevant visuals for your campaign. Every script, prop and special effect needs to tie into your branding. You also need to entertain people or educate them so they will come back and rewatch, to absorb the message faster. Consider how one anti-smoking PSA won an award for conveying a rapid number of statistics within a musical number. It’s still popular and unforgettable. – Duran Inci, Optimum7
Influencer marketing is a popular marketing strategy among many companies; however, when marketing to a young demographic, particular factors must be looked at. Kids, especially in the tween and teenage bracket, are incredibly impressionable, so when a business decides to work with influencers that resonate with this age group, they need to consider these individuals’ reach and how they are likely to impact the consumers.
There are many additional elements that a business must consider before diving into the influencer market as a way to sell their product. Here, eight professionals from Ad Age Collective offer their best advice on what a company should keep in mind when considering using an influencer or micro-influencer to help market its product to a younger demographic.
1. Don’t be something you’re not.
Don’t try to be something you’re not. Hanging with the “cool kids” at the party, particularly if you’re paying them, doesn’t make you cool, but rather has the opposite effect. It’s embarrassing. – Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive
2. Embrace self-awareness.
Self-awareness is key. Younger demographics are ruthless when it comes to inauthenticity, so be wary about putting your influencer in a compromising position when pushing your product. If done right, the influencer, audience and your product should seamlessly and naturally fit together. Be sure to let the influencer drive the creative process so that it resonates with their audience by default. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap
3. Think about the effect of peer influence.
I feel that the younger demographic is truly influenced by their peers more so than in the past. The way that social media can affect popularity, as well as that being a strong representation of how they judge each other, means choosing the right influencers for your brand is important. If they can get more “likes” and activity, that enables the brand to be more accepted. – Rob Palowitz, PALO Creative
4. Make sure they reflect your target audience.
Influencers should be reflective of your target audience. Instead of using them as experts, have them showcasing your product and having authentic interactions.Your target audience should be able to see themselves in the influencers’ reactions. – Arjun Sen, ZenMango
5. Look for influencers with a spotless history.
It’s important that any influencer has a spotless history and a strong moral code if they are speaking to and influencing a younger demographic. Everything must be above the board and on brand, and the influencer must showcase this in their public and personal persona. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising
6. Remember behaviors and mindsets constantly shift.
Young people (teens and tweens) are constantly going through a radical change of mindset and behavior. What was hip and cool yesterday becomes lame today. Therefore, the “lifespan” of an influencer to younger demographics is very short. Once you’ve selected the casting of influencers and collaborators to work with your brand, make sure to track their freshness and relevance to a specific public. – Marcello Magalhaes, Speakeasy – Knowledge Brokers
7. Don’t focus on the size of their audience.
Don’t focus on the size of the influencer’s audience. Instead, focus on their authenticity and engagement with followers. Anyone can be paid to promote a product or service, but the influencer’s credibility is paramount when it comes to endorsements and the actions taken by the audience thereafter. The partnership also really needs to align the influencer’s beliefs or desires with your offering. – Kurt Kaufer, Ad Results Media
8. Stay on top of changing values and current events.
Stay on top of changing values and current events. Generation Z is more tech-savvy and socially aware than Gen X and Y are, relatively speaking, and have a unique sense of humor, as shown with the Tide Pod challenge. Thus, they become harder to win over. If your influencer or micro-influencer shows they can connect with the audience and care about their values, then you have a solid target market. – Duran Inci, Optimum7
As COVID-19 shifts the way the world functions, it is also shifting how advertising and marketing assets are created and implemented. People are spending more time at home and their needs have changed. Marketing professionals must adapt to this new normal and deliver campaigns that speak to consumers’ current experiences.
The members of Ad Age Collective understand the importance of embracing these changes, not just now, but in the future as the industry evolves. We asked 14 of them to share how their field is pivoting in the long term, and how they plan to find success in this new landscape.
1. Understand new consumer habits.
Adaptability is more important than ever. The current pace of change requires brands to be fast and flexible. When you take the essential first step to understand new consumer habits, only then can you adapt your advertising to reach people in ways that will meet their needs. Advertisers need to stay focused on the customer, even as they change, and find media partners who can help them do that. – Cathy Oh, Samsung Ads
2. Embrace the creative renaissance.
On the downside, the ad industry remains exclusive and has not embraced AI or employment trends as quickly as it should. On the upside, now that the technology plumbing that was needed to connect disparate media and creative systems and teams is now largely done and millennials and Gen Z are joining the ranks, we have entered a fantastic creative renaissance! – Lana McGilvray, Purpose Worldwide
3. Use data insights as your North Star.
Unfortunately, leads are still the guiding light for a majority of companies today — but our buyers need more from us. As marketing evolves into the new normal, we’ll see more teams using data insights as their North Star to customer engagement. Marketers will start evaluating their pipeline and use critical buyer intent data to drive their revenue growth forward. – Latane Conant, 6sense
4. Know the unit economics of your capabilities.
Agencies have for years built out forward-looking capabilities on the guarantees of large AORs, often with new capabilities being loss leaders for a time. Given the month-to-month and quarter-to-quarter orientation of client spending in the current economy, agencies will need to understand the unit economics of specific capabilities and grow with an eye toward profitable near-term capabilities. – Moira Vetter, Modo Modo Agency
5. Seek out creatives who are authentic and multi-faceted.
The creative role is changing most. The required skill set has shifted radically. It used to be that the storytelling was done by folks with the craft and skills to make tiny movies called ads. Now a creative person needs to be a social detective, a spy in the house of data, a behavioral tactician and be willing to shed award-friendly artifice for authenticity, even when that’s not always pretty. – Scott Montgomery, Bradley and Montgomery (BaM)
6. Pay attention to changing media consumption habits.
The new landscape will be an evolving target as worldwide “staying at home” will evolve how we work and live life. When and how we consume media will change too. Success will be defined by keeping pace with this evolution, and messages that are more relevant and less disruptive will resonate. “Scream and tell” advertising to buy a visit may get ignored, but “content I want to know” will win. – Arjun Sen, ZenMango
7. Change your messaging and imagery to match changing daily life.
It’s essential to change your messaging and imagery to ensure it matches the massive shifts in customers’ everyday lives. There is a marketing opportunity to feature products that can help customers during this difficult, uncertain time. There’s a difference between fear-mongering and offering a product that will truly make someone’s day, week or life better, and customers know the difference. – Warren Jolly, adQuadrant
8. Be flexible.
Flexibility in how we service accounts, build teams, buy and/or engage media and diversify creatively will be much more critical as we move forward. The new normal is teaching us to strategically shift on a moment’s notice and to listen to all stakeholders all of the time. By building processes and teams that can flex and approaching creativity from all stakeholder points of view, we will find success. – Maggie O’Neill, Peppercomm
9. Get ready to change how you collect and use consumer data.
As privacy concerns grow, advertisers will find that collecting data and personalization will get harder. We need to be prepared with changes regarding the way we collect and use people’s data. It’s important to look into AI tools, especially around contextual intelligence so that we can place ads and target users based on the content of a page over how a user behaves. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
10. Market yourself through social messaging apps.
Social messaging apps will grow as advertising spread dips due to the lack of demand. This is a good time to advertise because you will get better rates on pay-per-click ads. As more people are feeling isolated from the mandatory shutdowns, they will turn to other resources to seek connection. See if you can conduct marketing with these apps to reach your audience remotely. – Duran Inci, Optimum7
11. Invest in content marketing and owned media.
Content marketing and owned media will continue to rise. It is getting easier and more important for brands to be able to produce and deliver their own content. This is especially true in B2B marketing where the value propositions can be more complicated or nuanced. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)
12. Rethink your product and service offerings for the modern world.
Product offerings need to be rethought (for instance, alcohol companies making sanitizer and clothing companies making masks) and brand marketing must become a concierge service connecting a consumer need with a viable solution in real time as needs continue to evolve. The most successful brands will co-create solutions with those who will use the product or service. – Holly Fearing, Filene Research Institute
13. Be agile, but thoughtful and calculated.
Adapting at every corner is critical at this point where things are changing every day. Don’t get stuck in any form of how we “used” to do things either in the workplace or media environment. Be agile and adapt quickly when appropriate, but continue to be thoughtful and calculated with decisions that will have a large impact on your brand. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising
14. Go back to basics.
Advertising needs to return to the fundamentals. As the tools evolve at an increasingly rapid pace, coupled with a shift in brands bringing marketing roles in-house, agencies need to return to the fundamentals of how to generate long-term advertising success. This involves a return to psychology as the driving factor behind why people purchase one product over another. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap
Data gives advertisers the power to fine-tune their campaigns and deliver strong results. Industry experts shared their best advice about advertising data, including methods for collecting it, analyzing it, and putting it to use.
From Karla Crawford-Kerr, VP of Marketing, Hawthorne Advertising.
Don’t just collect data, analyze it continuously.
In advertising data science, it’s not enough to report on the past and present. Data without context only states the obvious—what has already happened. Businesses have spent the past few years accumulating massive amounts of data, with 60 percent-73 percent of that data to go unused, according to Forrester. Big and small data collection is clearly not enough. Data-driven decisions require analysis and insight to deliver value and lead to meaningful change.
To get the most out of advertising data science, marketers need to look ahead and focus on how data can help them make better decisions. Marketers must be open-minded and process-oriented in their Advertising Approach Analysis. This means testing, collecting data, evaluating, testing again, and analyzing to really learn from the data and make tweaks and game changing decisions. This process is a continuous circle in advertising. It never stops. To drive results, it’s important to focus on data from start to finish.
Here are seven steps that advertisers can take to optimize their use of data science.
Understand Audience and Audience Targeting. This means looking at how and where the target audience is consuming media. It’s critical to be medium agnostic. Do not overlook options like CTV based on perceived cost, as it may be an effective extension of linear or digital.
A/B Test. Test everything—messaging, content, and creative.
Test the results. Look at the results of campaigns for attribution and impact. See what worked and what didn’t.
Make data-driven decisions. Look at the short and long tail of conversions (first touch vs. last touch).
Trust your instincts. As a marketer it is important to know when to trust instinct vs. getting bogged down with the data. This could mean calling out false positives or evaluation of results that focus too narrowly on the short term.
More testing. Hone your message and creative.
Optimize spend and investment.
Start again. Understand your audience and audience targeting.
Director of Marketing Technology, Titan 47
There are answers for your cross-system attribution questions.
Today’s marketers have a gold mine of data sitting right in front of them that can be turned into insights with even the most basic of technical skills. A mix of Google Tag Manager, marketing channel APIs, and an object-oriented programming language, like Python, can allow you to accomplish even the most complex of tasks—including cross-systems attribution modeling.
Google Analytics has strong attribution capabilities out of the box, however, what if your main KPIs are simple transactions held in Google Analytics? This is a cross-systems attribution problem. You can use Google Tag Manager to create custom dimensions for the Google Analytics client id as well as your product or lead user ids (if applicable). Using Python and the Google Analytics API, you can extract multiple segments at scale into a data warehouse, such as Google BigQuery. From there, data integration can be performed across your Google Analytics data and your database or CRM. Now, you’ll have pre-conversion user data combined with post-conversion customer data for attribution modeling.
Languages like Python are also great for deploying different statistical-based attribution models once your data is integrated. The sky’s the limit when marketing is combined with technical skills and today’s wealth of knowledge online helps marketers jump right in.
Andrew Van Benschoten
Senior Manager, Data Science, Ovative Group
You can base most of your business decisions on simple models.
The data science field has many flashy technologies such as neural networks and reinforcement learning, but the majority of your business questions can be answered with more straightforward approaches.
Linear regression can get you ~70% of the output from a more complex model, and in 1/10th of the time. And in many cases, the added accuracy won’t change your business decision. I’m going to invest in the marketing channel with the highest-ranked ROAS regardless of whether that number is 5 or 5.1. These simpler approaches also have the added benefit of easier interpretability. Your clients may not understand pooling layers or stacking vs. ensembling, but they can understand that a one-dollar change in channel spend leads to a three dollar change in overall revenue.
Throughout this process you might discover that you need a more complex approach to accomplish your business objectives, and that’s ok! Starting simple provides a perfect framework for conducting auxiliary tasks such as exploring the nuances of your data, thinking through appropriate KPIs, and the like. These critical components are often overlooked if you have to spend your time setting up your GPU configuration or debugging a beta-version ML library. At the end of the day, your goal is not to use the latest data science buzzword, but rather to uncover new insights that drive your client to act.
Owner, Reedy River Marketing, LLC
Data science can’t account for all the intangibles, so figure out the story behind it.
I think the biggest misconceptions about advertising data science are that the datasets have to be enormous, the algorithms have to be complex, and an advertiser’s background has to be extremely technical to make it work. The truth of the matter is that ADS scales based on the data you have to work with, and most importantly, the client’s objective. A lot of the platforms commonly used for digital marketing for a smaller and medium-sized business are already incorporating the machine-learning aspect on the backend. Smart-bidding capabilities, automated rules, and a variety of different conversion techniques are already taking advantage of the machine-learning aspect concerning user behavior and desired outcome.
The next step is to decide the best way to utilize these types of tests in conjunction with more manual data science techniques. There are only so many inputs we typically give to a platform to execute our campaigns. We simply can’t completely relay the intangibles and the human experience fully into the machine. Even if we could, it wouldn’t think, analyze, or optimize exactly as we do. That is why we need to find the best convergence of both, tested together, to ultimately achieve the client’s goals with all aspects of ADS working together as seamlessly as possible.
Finally, it is also extremely important not to get lost within the data. We have more data than we could ever fully digest in most cases. It is too easy to get caught up in treating the analysis like starting a 5,000 piece puzzle versus a beautiful painting that is just missing the last few strokes to complete it. The data is telling us an amazing story, but far too often we simply don’t listen. At least not actively.
Search Manager, GroupM Ireland
Capture the data you need to understand the full ecosystem.
This is one of the biggest challenges and is often overlooked: measuring the level of contribution of a channel in the mix to achieve the right trade-offs by efficiently connecting multiple data points. Let’s see how to bring the pieces of the puzzle together and unlock opportunities.
Data visualization tools are the way to go, as they allow real-time reporting reflecting the maturity of tracking an entire KPI in real-time with a complete vision: based on data-driven models, algorithms and machine learning.
Attribution & Contribution
There is a real awareness on how to use attribution and contribution tools; it is now the norm to value the upstream of the funnel and not only value last-click models. It is demonstrating the necessity of synergies in the wider marketing ecosystems.
Bring That Puzzle Together
Between paid search and TV, the connection is intuitive: the behavior of a TV viewer is predictable and measurable, and the channel cross-synchronization will maximize the impact of TV. But how to prove the efficiencies driven on foot traffic, this is the holy grail that agencies can offer thanks to operational maturity and omnichannel approaches.
Start using the data that the consumer actively shares with your business—think questionnaires, polls to maximize data capturing capabilities instead of fighting the growing chimeras of a zero-cookie internet.
The Way Through The Forest
Clustering and trainable algorithms can assist to find the true way in your forest of data. This can unlock unimaginable patterns and campaign automation with unprecedented efficiencies.
Reach For The Stars
To conclude, don’t forget to feed the top of the funnel to fill the bottom and start maximizing on the cross-channel synergies by taking advantage of symbiotic ecosystems.
One of the hallmarks of working in an agency is that no two clients want the same thing. Even so, a few campaigns that professionals have worked on are unusual and distinct. Sometimes the client wants something unique and potentially strange to the agency. One might look at this as just another quirk of the profession, but the true masters see these unusual requests as an ability to learn.
The things you discover from a strange request might come in handy later down the road in another project. Below, 13 contributors to Forbes Agency Council talk about some of the most unique and challenging client campaigns they ever worked on and the valuable lessons they gained from the experience.
1. Treadmill Running For Leukemia Awareness
A former NGO client wanted to create awareness for leukemia by collaborating with a locally famous runner. After some skepticism, we set up treadmills at a crowded CBD location, asking office workers to join the runner’s quest of completing a marathon on the treadmill — with every mile leading to donations. “Running in your heels is hard? It’s nothing compared to those suffering.” – Lars Voedisch, PRecious Communications
2. Friskies Best Internet Cat Video Competition
The goal was to have Friskies be the driver of an online cat video contest. We hired celebrity judges and crafted a donation program for 25 approved national nonprofits to receive Friskies cat food with each vote cast. We learned that cat owners love making videos, and this was feeding something they enjoy while also empowering Friskies to be front and center with them. – Kathleen Lucente, Red Fan Communications
3. Incontinence Pads Promotion Campaign
Recently, a client came to us asking if we could help promote their incontinence pads utilizing our influencer network. While you might think light bladder leakage is not something women would want to talk about online, it turns out you would be wrong! The content generated was authentic, engaging and even funny (one influencer shared photos of herself jumping on a trampoline). – Danielle Wiley, Sway Group
4. A ‘Blockbuster’ Campaign With A Limited Budget
Our client wanted us to compete with top dollar spenders with, only 2% of the total budget that the competitors were spending! To the client, this new campaign idea made the most sense in the world, hence the nickname “Blockbuster.” We learned to be resourceful, and my team ended up doing very little with their normal routines. We made sure they found a way; no stone was left unturned. – Zohaib Hassan Patoli, SnapWeb Services
5. Rental Apartment Community Campaign
We were asked to create a campaign to market a new rental apartment community targeted to young, single professionals on a tight budget. We didn’t want to just do the typical photos of the complex so we created three “model” tenants — complete with names, careers, etc., to show what life is like at the complex. We were the one that came up with the unusual idea. It was an experiment that worked. – Leeza Hoyt, The Hoyt Organization, Inc.
6. Weather-Based Campaign
Weather can be a driving factor for if people choose to dine out or order in. We ran a unique campaign for a client in the restaurant industry that was based on the weather. We developed digital advertising and social media promotions that offered delivery specials, by geomarket, that were triggered by rainy or cold weather. We found that food delivery thrived in the rain. – Alex Membrillo, Cardinal Digital Marketing
7. Cryptocurrency Exchange Platform
The most interesting, innovative and challenging project we’ve worked on as an agency was a cryptocurrency exchange platform for accredited investors. Specializing in emerging technology and media has given us the opportunities to be on the forefront of continuous learning, exponential opportunities and we never suffer from a dull moment. The level of innovation in the startup space is unprecedented. – Terry Tateossian, Socialfix Media
8. Generating Word-Of-Mouth For Civic Project
A client asked us to generate broad, “organic” support for a civic project. Normal PR tactics were not going to do it, so we delved deep into the world of word-of-mouth marketing and developed an innovative campaign — before the age of social media — that identified influential people and used their networks to create the broad, authentic and obvious support our client wanted. – Jeff Bradford, the Bradford Group
9. Gulfstream’s G700 Launch Show
We love a challenge. When aerospace leader Gulfstream came to us for the launch of their G700 aircraft, they wanted us to hide and then reveal a full-sized business jet — no small task. We came up with the concept and designed and delivered a dazzling live show around the reveal. When we accept these challenges, we learn and grow, and are better positioned for the next one. – Scott Kellner, GPJ Experience Marketing
10. Local Political Campaign
Our first local political campaign for a person running for city council was challenging. We were faced with the ins and outs of dealing with a person who should become a brand that could, over time, garner the support of city residents to vote for them. The difficulty lies in making this person likable to a crowd in a short span of time and training this person to be the brand. – Ally Spinu, USA Link System
11. Cannabis Outdoor Advertising Nationwide
As the cannabis industry keeps growing, we have been approached by our client and asked to develop and execute an outdoor campaign that meets regulatory requirements nationwide. In order to do so, we had to learn how consumers are buying cannabis products and how to advertise by the rules in each state. Lesson learned? Do your research yourself and keep it away from millennials at your agency! – Jonnathan Trilleras, LEDTruckMedia
12. Website For Energy Muse
We’re currently working on a site for a client that is an energy muse. It’s a very niche market but has found that with her techniques she’s able to get people into a new mindset that they haven’t been open to before. We looked at inspiration across a spectrum to find that brand that feels authentic and comfortable to a market that is new to almost all potential buyers. – Lee Salisbury, UnitOneNine
13. Sports Sponsorships
Sports sponsorships are unique branding opportunities for both the client and the fan where the client can really get behind a team they are passionate about. The sports fan will engage with the brand and sponsorship as there will be a mutual understanding that the brand supports the fans favorite team and their passions are aligned leading to stronger engagement. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro,Hawthorne LLC
While we all hunker down, work from home, and stream video content, I thought it would be a wonderful idea to talk to one of the original greats in long-form video advertising, Tim Hawthorne, founder of Hawthorne Advertising. On June 1, Tim will be bestowed a “Lifetime Achievement” honor by Marketing EDGE in New York as part of its EDGE Awards. Here, he shares valuable perspective on a video advertising career in an increasingly rich, ubiquitous medium for consumers, brands, and marketers.
A ‘Love Story’ for Film
Chet: Tim, first of all, congratulations! I’m so happy to see you recognized by Marketing EDGE – with its mission of marketing education and professional development, bringing the best and brightest into the marketing field. When you graduated from college – Harvard University no less, in 1973 (really, I mean, “Love Story“) – did you have any inkling that you would build a career of first in direct-response television (DRTV) and video advertising?
Tim: No, I had no idea in 1968 as I matriculated to Harvard that I would eventually become a pioneer of direct response television marketing. (First of all, yes, “Love Story” for sure. I was wandering through the Harvard Yard in the fall of 1969 when they were shooting exteriors. Not sure, but I might be one of those students hurriedly rushing to class in the background.)
It was turbulent times while I attended Harvard – 1968-1973. (I’m actually Class of ’68 but took a year off after my sophomore year to teach school in Ethiopia with the Harvard Africa Volunteer Project, so I graduated in ’73.) Initially, I intended to study chemistry, then switched to social psychology, influenced by the turbulent social times in the late 60s. But after getting my hands on a still camera in Ethiopia, I decided I’d take a still photography/documentary filmmaking course when I reentered Harvard in the fall of ’71. I was fascinated with the process of editing film, and then determined I’d pursue a career in filmmaking.
Searching for a job post-graduation in my hometown of Minneapolis, I was fortunate to be hired by the investigative documentary unit of the local CBS station, WCCO-TV. I worked there for almost five years, advancing from production assistant to editor to cinematographer, learning the craft of long-form storytelling. Our unit produced amazing documentaries that were often the No. 1 rated television programs in the Minneapolis/St. Paul market and won multiple awards, including the du Pont-Columbia and Peabody awards. I then became a producer/director/writer when I moved to the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia and eventually worked for a number of LA-based network primetime reality-based shows such as “Real People” and “That’s Incredible.”
Chet: Did you grow up having a love for industrial films of the 50s and 60s – which I think were a great precursor to the infomercial age and video advertising?
Tim: No, I didn’t have any particular love for industrial films (which in the 50s, 60s, and 70s were the height of boring and simplistic video communications!) It’s my background in documentaries – telling a long form story on people and subjects – that seemed a natural basis on which to pioneer telling long-form consumer product stories.
Like many consumers, I’ve never liked being “sold” especially when I’ve felt manipulated. And of course, short-form TV commercial brand selling is very much about manipulating emotions (via humor, poignancy, excitement) and associating strong positive images (sex, strength, beauty) with a product – a very subtle and often deceptive way of selling.
Infomercial or long-form advertising has always been based on factual selling – the exposition of features and benefits – of course, in as entertaining a way as possible. But at least the channel is up-front about its message: Here’s a product, here’s what it can do, and here are the benefits to you. This “truth in advertising” has always appealed to me. Producing documentaries is also about discovering the truth about a person, group, or issue.
In 1984, having moved from LA to Iowa for lifestyle reasons (wanting to raise our daughter Jessica in the Midwest where I grew up), I was open for new opportunities. A local real estate investment entrepreneur heard of my background and approached me about producing a long-form commercial. It would be an hour long … and a challenge. That was November 1984, one of the first infomercials on air. Within 12 months, the infomercial had grossed more than $60 million dollars and dominated the long-form air waves. Fairfield Television Enterprise was the company I formed to market the infomercial and over 18 months we revolutionized long-form TV direct response.
Chet: How did early success stories translate to business growth? Were there mentors you paid close attention to? (Alvin Eicoff comes to mind).
Tim: Eighteen months after launching Ed Beckley’s real estate investment infomercial, I became disillusioned with the way the company was moving forward. I resigned in April 1986 and took a couple of months off before starting Hawthorne Communications, later to become Hawthorne Direct, and then become Hawthorne Advertising. In late June 1986, I was a one-person company with the goal to persuade Fortune 500 companies to add long-form TV commercials to their marketing mix. We were the first infomercial ad agency in the world and I was confident that virtually all products had, somewhere at their hearts, a fascinating story we tell and hold viewers’ attention for 28 minutes and 30 seconds.
The agency had a singular focus: TV long-form advertising. There was no road map for the industry. We invented it as we went along. Certainly Al Eicoff was the reigning master of DRTV (and his book “Or Your Money Back” a short-form DRTV bible) but his company focused on short-form DRTV (2 minutes or less). So I and my growing team began to innovate, and I began to write about and present the long form story to marketing groups and corporations literally around the world. There was no road map; we were the trailblazers.
A Litany of Firsts and Video Advertising Innovations
Chet: Trailblazer indeed. What are some of the innovations you have brought to the field of DRTV, infomercials, and more recently digital video programming? How has digital disruption affected the traditional DRTV and broadcast channel, from a marketing perspective?
Tim: I’ve been called a “leading architect” of the DRTV industry by producing an impressive string of “firsts”:
Co-founder and president of the first infomercial direct marketer to break the $50 million revenue per year mark, Fairfield Television Enterprises
Founder and chairman of the first infomercial advertising agency, Hawthorne Communications
Produced the first infomercial for: a Fortune 500 company – Time Life; a major music company – Time Life Music; a major credit card company – Discover Card; a major health insurance company – Blue Cross Blue Shield; and a retail driving campaign for a brand name product – Braun
Infomercial Agency of Record for the first infomercial for: a major computer company – Apple Computers; and a major weight loss company – Weight Watchers
Infomercial Agency of Record for the first “promo-mercial” – a half-hour promotion for a primetime TV series (NBC’s “JAG”)
Published the industry’s first newsletter: “The 1-800 Report”
Published the industry’s first hard-bound textbook on infomercials: “The Complete Guide to Infomercial Marketing”
Created the first long-form TV media buying computer analysis system – “Time Track”
Purchased the first long-term cable TV bulk media contract: Discover Network, for $50 per half hour, six hours per night
Established the first infomercial agency/traditional agency alliance with Earl Palmer Brown
As for innovations to digital video, Hawthorne was one of the first agencies to actively use video promotion on websites (late 1990s) and we pioneered the “drive online direct sales” with short-form TV commercials, which were designed to motivate new visitors to our web-based clients.
Yes, the digital economy has significantly disrupted DRTV, as it has the television entertainment model as a whole. With a 35% drop in primetime adult (18-49) viewership from 2015-2019, the era of aggregating mass audiences on broadcast TV is long over.
A Family Affair – and an Investment in the Future
Chet: Was it a great leap – or expansion – from Fairfield, Iowa (hey, I’m from Nebraska) to Los Angeles? What brought Hawthorne Advertising to LA (and beyond)? Was there a talent pool you needed there?
Tim: From the beginning, Hawthorne was somewhat disadvantaged being a national advertising agency headquartered in a small Iowa town. We did have a small LA office (two staff) from the early 90s to keep in touch with our West Coast clients. But when Jessica (my daughter) came on board in March 2007, she brought an energy and vision to the company previously unknown.
Her goal was to build the LA office and lead the company into a digital future. And she has done that in spades, making LA our headquarters, while our Iowa office strongly administratively supports LA to this day. Our LA office certainly had access to talent we always struggled to persuade to move to Iowa, as you, being a Nebraskan, are probably aware of. It was a brilliant move by Jessica which has allowed the company to continue to thrive going into our 35th year.
Chet: Well now we know why Marketing EDGE named Jessica Hawthorne-Castro a 2015 Rising Stars honoree. (You must be very proud!)
Tim: Yes, I’m very proud of Jessica’s ownership and leadership of the company. And it wasn’t by design. Jessica was a thriving talent agent at Endeavor, one of the few women agents at that male-dominated business with six years’ tenure. But she recognized that industry was missing certain business and spiritual values important to her. In February 2007, I coincidentally asked her if she had time to monitor a commercial talent audition in LA that we needed someone to attend. She did it, enjoyed it, and said she would be open to coming on board at Hawthorne. Over the next five years she soaked up the business, brought much-needed youthfulness to our efforts, advanced from client service associate to CEO, and built our LA office to 50-plus employees, while transforming the agency to a digital foundation.
Chet: As an author of several business books on DRTV and infomercial formats, and likely a bevy of company alumni in the field today, you’ve contributed so much to the professional development of data-driven marketers, marketing measurement, attribution and the like. What part of giving back to the field do you find most gratifying? Is there a particular “lifetime” achievement you’re most proud of?
Tim: My greatest achievement? Creating a company that has endured for 35 years and allowed hundreds of staff to learn, thrive, and grow in marketing knowledge and experience, while realizing greater personal achievement and confidence. We created a company that was a home for our staff to do great work amid friendship and respect. Undoubtedly my greatest achievement, far beyond any creative work for a client.
Thank you Tim – and we’re so happy to celebrate your contributions at the EDGE Awards come June 1. And much more video success ahead!
Marketers usually put a lot of thought and effort into crafting the perfect campaign, from choosing the ideal audience to streamlining their marketing techniques and more. Drawing in customers is the primary goal of any marketing strategy, but conversions come from closing the sales loop.
Things like crafting the customer journey, establishing relationships with the buyer and defining the ideal purchaser are all remixes to this particular tune. Even the successful sales funnel method uses a similar idea to get consumers to click the “Buy Now” button. Here, 13 professionals from Forbes Agency Council examine the most effective ways that businesses can seek to close their sales loop.
1. Include Sales From The Start
Especially in business-to-business scenarios, ensuring the sales team is brought into the campaign is the single most important success driver. The end customer expects campaigns to be hyper-personalized, which means understanding and catering to their needs, blockers and goals. To drive meaningful results, include sales early, starting from the ideation stage, and maintain their involvement throughout the campaign life cycle. – Andrew Au, Intercept Group
2. Make The First Move
Making the first offer to the customer at a “no risk” or free trial is still a compelling way to draw the customer in for a close. Let them test and live with the brand with the intention that they will become a long-time user. Therefore, “lifetime customer value” metrics are calculated, which is the real value to a brand. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC
3. Define The Path To Purchase
Before inviting prospects to a campaign, it’s a good idea to lay out the path to purchase for your prospect. We use call-to-action campaigns on our website and set them up as goals in analytics tracking. Use contact forms, e-books or site audits. Then define how to close the loop. Our sales team then follows up with timed client touch points until the leads are vetted and closed using our customer relationship management (CRM) tool. – Michael Fox, Corberry Digital
4. Build Sincere Personal Relationships
For customers, what matters most is establishing sincere personal relationships. Beyond closing the sales loop, customers must feel that your organization truly understands them and their business. Establishing this connection from the first touch point to purchase to customer support will not only help close the sale, but create powerful advocates for your brand and potential upsell opportunities. – Michaela Dempsey, Scout RFP
5. Create A Journey For Each Prospect
As marketers, we tend to look at things in the way that they apply to us, so all that matters may be those sales results. But the customer on the other side is a human too, with their own viewpoint, and they don’t want your sale forced on them. Instead, make it their choice by inviting them into a conversation and taking them on a personalized journey through marketing and sales. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO
6. Understand The Customer’s True Need
Depending on your business, you might use different approaches to close the sale but ultimately, what it comes down to is whether you’ve identified the customer’s true need and motivation and whether your product or service offers the right solution. If you can demonstrate to the customer that your solution is the best way to address their need, the customer will be ready to make the decision. – Inna Semenyuk, InnavationLabs
7. Integrate Sales And Marketing
In our own experience, we have seen more often than not that marketing campaigns are run and leads are generated. And then no one knows what happened to the leads or how much got converted. This is typically because of corporate silos that modern-day businesses operate. It is important to integrate the sales process into the marketing process and insist on a regular feedback loop. – Hareesh Tibrewala, Mirum India
8. Use Short-Form Content To Convert
Your content strategy needs to follow customers’ path to purchase and create both long- and short-form content. Think “help” content to drive traffic from search, “how-to” videos to get into the set of consideration of potential customers. Then provide social media users with a short piece of content that will ultimately help them make a decision: a link to a press article, an influencer post, etc. – Aurelie Sauthier, Made in
9. Tell Customers What You Want Them To Do
In short, tell customers what you want them to do and give them a reason to do it. Too often, brands try to simultaneously “build their brand” and get consumers to take immediate action, which can lead to confusion. Say one thing and say it (very) well by giving customers a strong and clear call to action that inspires them to make the purchase. Dial up authentic and confident language. – Edward Hoffman
10. Keep A Record
Use analytical tools to extract your lead source information and export it to a CRM system or lead-capture software. A great record helps keep your leads in the loop, replicates buyer personas and provides insight regarding your customer base. – Ashar Jamil, Digitally Up
11. Think Beyond The Lead Funnel
To close the sales loop you need the customer to see not just why they need to buy what you have to offer, but also why now. To help customers justify a decision and move to a purchase, marketers should align with sales as another channel to the customer and design campaigns, both the content and touch points, to work hard beyond the first response. – Alisha Lyndon, MomentumABM
12. Leverage Emotional Resonance
Your value proposition is the balance of the perceived costs and benefits of buying your products. The most overlooked word there is “perceived,” since the only thing that matters is how your customers “interpret” what you say. People buy based on their emotional reactions, not logic. You need to understand which emotional cues your customers interpret and how to resonate with their expectations. – Chris Goward, Widerfunnel
13. Use An Integrated CRM
It’s critical to have a system in place that delivers leads to sales agents who can follow up on them. As a Hubspot-certified agency, we love the way Hubspot allows us to design inbound campaigns and set up lead flows that integrate right into our clients’ CRM systems. It creates a closed-loop process that shows the effectiveness of the campaign and holds people accountable for closing on leads. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative
Technology has enhanced the customer experience quite a bit, with many companies employing the use of artificial intelligence agents for customer service roles. However, despite embracing technology for their customer service needs, many businesses are not fully using tech to improve the way customers engage online.
Modern business centers on customer-website interaction. Customers want to feel as though they are welcome to your website and that their business matters to you. The customization and personalization of a site to suit a customer’s needs makes them feel valued. As marketers know, customers that feel valued provide repeat business. If you want to retain these customers successfully, your website must put user experience first.
Luckily, these eight entrepreneurs from Ad Age Collective know what it takes to create a successful user experience. User experience (also known as UX) and UX design have become key to how companies interact with their target demographic. Below, these experts share their best advice for companies looking to leverage tech to improve their website’s UX and build strong customer loyalty.
1. Design your website around your why.
A website is a purposeful entry point for information and action. Understanding why you need a website is essential to delivering on your promise. Once you prioritize needs by the target groups visiting the site, only then can tech play a big role in making the visitor’s journey faster and distraction-free, helping them to get to their desired goals. Tech also plays a big role for repeat visitors and repeat tasks. – Arjun Sen, ZenMango
2. Keep content relevant to customer needs.
When a customer lands on your website, use tech algorithms to have them land on content and images that they were initially searching for. That way, it is immediately relevant to their needs and the best possible brand experience. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising
3. Focus on personalization.
Your on-site experience should not be the same for everyone who shows up. Many software vendors will enable you to customize your site based on where visitors are arriving from, whether or not they’ve been to your site before, what visitors did the last time they were on your site, whether or not they are existing customers, etc. You can even test different versions of your site simultaneously. – Dan Beltramo, Onclusive (formerly AirPR)
4. Leverage artificial intelligence tools.
As traditional marketing tactics have become less effective, sales and marketing teams are adopting new AI-powered tools to deliver a superior customer experience. By identifying which accounts are visiting your site and uncovering critical insights about them, AI allows you to deliver relevant messages with chatbots or custom content streams based on what’s actually important to every visitor. – Latane Conant, 6sense
5. Use chatbots to answer simple queries.
Very often, people visit websites to get simple questions answered. Adding chatbots to your site can help visitors by giving them the right information almost instantly. This is especially helpful where they need information that can be extracted from a database. You enhance the customer experience by providing customers with accurate information fast. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner
6. Don’t take advantage of your customer’s time.
If they visit your website, don’t first make them put in an email for your newsletter or close a pop-up. If you ask for their feedback on their experience or Net Promoter Score, follow up with what you’ll do to make it better for them. Data is currency, and consumers increasingly know that. Give them something of value in return for their attention and information, be it more personalization or fixing a problem. – Holly Fearing, Filene Research Institute
7. Ensure two-way communication.
Any tech that you utilize on your website needs to facilitate two-way communication with a customer. Whether using AI, customer feedback or the ability to aggregate customer data, at the heart of your learning and your communication has to be an authentic human connection. When a customer engages with you on your website, this needs to be front and center. – Rich Honiball, Navy Exchange Service Command
8. Pre-fill customer data.
Forms are the bane of anyone’s existence. The constant drudgery of having to repeatedly fill out forms creates friction and a bad customer experience. Instead, pre-fill information where possible (accompanied by a “welcome back” message) and only ask for information that is absolutely essential. The less burden you place on your customer, the more they will appreciate you making their life easier. – Patrick Ward, Rootstrap
It’s pretty common to see marketing agencies focus on a singular dollars-and-cents approach to explaining the effectiveness of a marketing strategy to their clients. The vital misstep in this approach comes from assuming that clients are solely interested in the cost-to-return ratio of a policy. In many cases, businesses are less concerned about the spend and more worried about the value it generates, whether that is in returns or less-tangible metrics like customer loyalty.
ROI isn’t the only way to connect with clients. Below, 13 members of Forbes Agency Council discuss the metrics and strategies they use to explain the success of a marketing campaign to their clients in simple, understandable ways.
1. Create A Measurement Dashboard
We help our clients create a measurement dashboard with marketing metrics that all lead up to achieving their sales goal. These could include number of email newsletter subscribers, number of fans and followers on social media platforms, number of people who attend live in-person events, number of sales calls made by sales staff, and number of inbound phone calls inquiring about a new promotion. – Nancy Marshall, Marshall Communications
2. Show Clients Where The ROI Is Happening
While clients love to see results, they love seeing a breakdown of the results even more. When you show clients the individual channels that are experiencing a steady ROI, you form a bond with them. They’re more appreciative of you showing the exact marketing channels they are excelling in as opposed to “we’ve seen a lot of growth.” It provides a sense of clarity, honesty and trust. – Charles Mazzini, Hyperlinks Media, LLC
3. Specify Measurable KPIs
Definitions of success vary depending on many variables, including the type of the campaign, media selected, or the product/service position in the marketing funnel. It’s important to clarify agreed-upon goals early on, then create key performance indicators (KPI) that will help the agency and the client measure and track the success of the campaign. – Ahmad Kareh, Twistlab Marketing
4. Treat The Marketing Spend Like It’s Yours
Traditional marketing agencies use acronyms that most clients can’t bank on, like ROAS, CAC, CTR and CVR. These are all ratios that a client can’t put in their pocket. Think of it as your own money and put it in terms of whether you drove profitable traffic into their pocket. Our agency found that it’s important to measure gross profit, which is sales minus cost of goods sold and marketing expenses. – Michael Fox, Corberry Digital
5. Measure Each Activity Separately
One thing that works for us is segmentation. It helps our clients understand and appreciate our marketing activities much better. If you can segment metrics down to each marketing activity, it becomes easy to track ROI. We normally track sales, the lead volume against website traffic, the sources of traffic and total traffic over different periods of time. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS
6. Tie ROI To Client-Specific KPIs
It’s helpful to educate clients so they understand that ROI measurements will vary depending on the marketing tactic being examined. PPC campaigns will be easy to track and measure while content marketing campaigns are more complex. We like to develop specific KPIs connected to the client’s organizational goals and agree on those before campaigns launch. Then we monitor and report on our progress. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative
7. Look At Share Of Voice
Organic, earned media and share of voice are ways we measure ROI. We look at PR impressions, social media impressions and engagement to offer insight into the impact of the campaign. Share of voice percentages also resonate well and allow better articulation of ROI in specific markets. – Dustin Callif, Tool of North America
8. Measure Brand Awareness
The first reminder for the clients lies in the fact that the long-term investment in SEO and content marketing doesn’t lead to a sale immediately. So we measure brand awareness (clicks, interactions) constantly and show the dynamics. Another indicator is customer lifetime value or the customers’ loyalty, because about 80% percent of the company’s profit comes from 20% of the returning customers. – Oganes Vagramovich Barsegyan, Digital Beverly Marketing Solutions
9. Assess U&A Metrics Affecting Purchase Intent
Business impact is ultimately what clients seek, but it can be challenging for them to articulate. And it’s not a universal metric. For instance, I work with many commodity boards and trade associations that are charged with increasing demand for a product category (i.e., not directly selling). So we assess key usage and attitude (U&A) metrics that affect purchase intent, such as preference and health attributes. – Edward Hoffman
10. Look At Cost Per Acquisition
Every business/client is looking for ROI. The easiest way to know if your campaigns are working is by tracking the metrics. Google Analytics can work for this. Take a look at your attribution report in analytics to quickly find out the number of leads/purchases per channel (Google ads, organic, social, etc). Use the number of leads/purchases and divide it by the cost associated with each channel. – Sean Allen, Twelve Three Media
11. Keep A Pulse On The Market
Beyond immediate ROI, brands need to look at their overall brand lift and halo effects, which naturally raise other channels as a result of marketing efforts. Brands need to value the agency’s core competency in marketing and have a wider purview on the entire market. If a brand tries to leverage in-house, it’s hard for them to keep up with fast moving media marketplace trends, which is invaluable. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne LLC
12. Measure Customer Interactions
One great feature about today’s modern era of social media and digital discussion is that you can actually see what people have to say about your brand. Being able to show an increase in positive sentiment and engagement among customers will go a long way with clients. Happy customers go hand in hand with dollars and cents. – Darian Kovacs, Jelly Digital Marketing & PR
13. Look At The Customer Journey
Clients expect our revenue-driven actions to be profitable and scalable, so it’s important to track your results using the right data. For the most part clients will want to see an immediate return on a month-to-month basis and in order to manage expectations and track your true ROI (not just ROAS) there are some KPIs you should not overlook, such as cost per acquisition and customer lifetime value. – Alex Quin, UADV