My conversation with Miguel Farias. about the advertising industry, employee engagement and their impact on each other. Miguel is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning, creative advertising director, responsible for the some of the industry's most popular and effective ad campaigns. His clients include Coca Cola, Toyota, Delta Airlines, Citibank HBO, Buick, Panasonic and The US Marines. Miguel is best known for his 3 Musketeers general market "floating bar" campaign that achieved historic sales results for Mars Corporation. He is founder of 4M Communications and lives in New York with his wife and two children. His email is: email@example.com
The Colombian Trade Bureau in Bogota has a very interesting initiative called "Colombia Bring IT On". USA based companies like Taico and Miguel's 4M Communications are invited as guests of the government to meet some of Colombia's brightest IT technology stars. IT entrepreneurs that rival anyone in the world for their innovation, experience, capabilities and creativity.
Miguel and I talked about the present state of the advertising industry and why advertising and employee engagement need each other. (Big thanks to my brother Robert for his patient transcription and editing for this blog post.)
Tai: Miguel, According to Advertising Age and other media analysts, advertisers worldwide will spend about half a trillion dollars in paid media.
Miguel: And a third of that comes from the USA alone. Expected to go up in 2015.
Tai: Some clients pour large amounts of their budget into ad campaigns. Some budgets as high as 30%. We all know some ads work and some fall flat. Is there a secret formula?
Miguel: Not really. The client must first know their ultimate goal. Wanting to sell more products isn't a specific enough objective. You'd be surprised how many organizations don't have that part identified. Also, maybe a company doesn't need to advertise. That's also a possibility.
Tai: That's what you tell them?
Miguel: Yes. If that's the better advice to give them. Honesty is key. You must always be upfront with the client. If advertising will help their cause, then certainly, they should. But it must be in the right media. How to get the best return for their dollar. Surprisingly, many clients have only a vague idea about what brand message they want to convey to the audience. And not a clue on how to convey that message, the right way.
Tai: That's where a good, hands on, creative, advertising person comes in.
Miguel: I suspect the same thing is true in your field. Improving workforce performance requires a knowledgeable, experienced incentive provider.
Tai: I guess that's why they keep us around.
Miguel: Lets hope so.
Tai: Talk about the state of employee recognition within the advertising industry.
Miguel: In short, not the greatest. Ad Agencies are a high pressure environment that many times undermine employee engagement and performance. Retaining innovation and creativity is a must. The good news is some agencies like Rockfish Digital have seen the writing on the wall and have introduced significant investment into employee incentives programs.
Tai: There was a study conducted last year that questioned if a 4 million dollar 30 second spot on the Super Bowl is worth the money. Is it worth the money?
Miguel: The big boys would say getting their message out to 100 million viewers is money well spent. They get to associate their brand with the event and into the minds of millions. The return on their investment may not be an exact science, but with those numbers they surmise the odds are in their favor. Smaller companies don't have that luxury because they don't have that kind of budget. However, in my view, advertisers big and small often overlook their second audience, their employees. This valuable internal audience often gets labeled as insignificant, too small. Truth is, the employee plays a significant supportive role in brand promotion.
Tai: How does that break down exactly?
Miguel: A great ad should create an expectation in the minds of the consumer. The employee comes in when the ad convinces the consumer that their experience with the employee will be a good one.
Tai: I will experience quality and friendly service from the advertiser's employees. That's good for sales, good for customer loyalty and great for the company.
Miguel: Right. Employees notice their employer's advertisements, they evaluate them, are affected by them and share them. A great ad actually transmits a positive vibe to employees.
Tai: The ad rubs off on them?
Miguel: It absolutely rubs off on them. There is a sense of pride to be working for a company that’s leading in that particular space when you’re talking about marketing and advertising. Then there are the effects consumer advertising can have on the other stakeholders, such as the retail employee.
Tai: The employee sees themself as a part of their company's goals.
Tai: I want to talk about the story behind your highly successful 3 Musketeers ad spot for Mars Company. It was your strategy and creative ideas that put product sales through the roof.
Miguel: That was definitely a drama. At the time, I was working at the agency that had the Three Musketeers account. Mars saw the main feature of their product as having 45% less fat. They were spending a ton of money but the ad wasn't getting any results. The Mars executives got fed up big time. They were ready to walk out. You can imagine the panic.
Tai: Why wasn't the ad working?
Miguel: The strategy was wrong, the message was plain and boring. It was the kind of commercial consumers don’t pay attention to. The most important part of the message was being lost. The agency I was with didn't understand that.
Tai: But Mars stayed on.
Miguel: Eventually yes. Mars was very unhappy with the results and they were ready to drop the account. The mantra at the agency became, how can we save this account? They promised Mars new concepts and ideas that would guarantee results if they would be given one more chance. The agency got one more chance.
Tai: That's when you came in.
Miguel: I was working on a completely separate account. Three Musketeers wasn’t my brand, but they called me in because they knew my work and my ability to take a concept and create the right commercial. So I went in, reviewed all the information, the strategy, the research and then developed a campaign, called “floating” campaign.
Tai: A great spot you created. Why then did you decide to leave the ad agency and go solo?
Miguel: Advertising is full of politics and to tell you the truth I was never crazy about this aspect of the business. I wanted to have an agency where people are valuable for what they can bring to the company and not by how well they kiss someone’s behind.
Miguel: The industry is also loaded with extremely talented people. There are many people who can talk a good talk, who can sell stuff, but when it comes time for delivery, often they don’t deliver. I knew my capabilities and I knew if I went out on my own I would be freer to create a better product, better service at a better price.
Tai: How do you compete with the big advertising agencies?
Miguel: My business model provides the client with a leaner, more efficient team. We are able to under price the competition and give them great results.
Tai: Mars finally went with your Three Musketeers concept.
Miguel: The product was being promoted as a rich tasting candy bar with 45% less fat. So my thinking was, if this is lighter, then it should "float." And that’s what resonated with everybody. In fact, the ad spot tested through the roof and was rated the second most successful campaign in United States chocolate advertising history. And from then on, the client requested that I be in on all the meetings and everything related. So it became my brand.
Miguel's Three Musketeers "floating" commercial.
Tai: What was your creation process?
Miguel: I was given the specs of the product and I asked the right questions. Based on the answers I received, I crafted the commercial.
Tai: I know from your bio that you are also responsible for creating other huge success stories. Coca Cola, Procter and Gamble, Toyota?
Miguel: Toyota is known for making a vehicle that lasts a long time. So, I created a commercial using the miles angle. It was powerful because everybody can relate to that. I got real people to write us letters about their Toyota experience. Emphasizing the huge amount of miles. We actually found a truck that had over a million miles.
Tai: A million miles? How did you approach that one?
Miguel: My approach was to first interview the owner. Then other owners with real stories. We filmed them, did TV, radio, and print advertising. We photographed them with their Toyota vehicle. The approach worked because the audience concluded: “I’m buying that Toyota, this thing lasts forever.”
Tai: Toyota is also one of those companies that makes employee engagement a priority.
Miguel: Marketing and Human Resources working in unison.
Tai: In fact Miguel, some clients will feature their own employees in their ad spots.
Miguel: Exactly, and a very smart approach. I will often recommend it. Having employees as the "performers" in the ad creates tremendous trust with the audience. The level employees give to the credibility of the advertiser's message is dramatic.
Tai: In an earlier blog piece, I quoted one CMO at Chase: "Our employees help us put the client first."
Miguel: This awareness is happening more and more within marketing circles. It’s a holistic view that will go a long way toward making for a more unified and profitable organization.
Tai: When you take on a client, how to you guide them? The do's and don'ts, best practices. Things like this?
Miguel: Off the bat, do they know what they want to achieve? Are they brand focused? Who presently buys from them? What's their budget? Will advertising, in the first place, be the best way for them to go?
Tai: After that do you determine for the client what is the best form of media for them? Whether its print, internet, radio, television?
Miguel: Yes. After my qualifying questions are answered, we discuss the needs of their brand and budget.
Tai: TV is a very powerful medium. Internet is also a huge platform.
Miguel: It really depends on the product. But it also depends a lot on the budget. You have to utilize their budget in a smart way. If you don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe you’d be better off doing print, or doing an internet banner, utilizing your money in different ways. That has to be determined on the needs, and the budget of the client.
Tai: If money is not an object, can television be the best choice?
Miguel: Yes, if money is not an object there is the potential for huge audiences to view the commercial. Adding to that, a strategy that includes integration of all the different media.
Tai: What's your work philosophy?
Miguel: Humor. Serve the client, work hard, meet their needs but keep the atmosphere non serious. Advertising should be a fun and entertaining experience for the client and our agency, otherwise it won’t be memorable. I use a lot of humor in my work. This makes for great results. I’ve seen so many advertisements that are beautifully produced but aren’t entertaining. The audience ends up not remembering nor caring about the spot.
Tai: How do you connect the brand with the consumer?
Miguel: Some of what we talked about before. What does the brand need? What is the target audience? Every product isn't going to everyone. Is the brand niche? What is the psyche of the target audience? What appeals to them?
Miguel: I develop with the client an agreement on the best strategy. We start to develop the creative. Will the commercial we produce touch the audience in an individual way? Will they relate to the message in a personal way? How engaged is the employee behind the ad campaign? It helps.
Tai: If the employee is engaged and on board with the company's mission. You also want your employees to have a sense of belonging to the organization. What about the do's and don'ts?
Miguel: I’ll start with a don’t. Don't be a follower. How can I help you differentiate your brand from the other ones? Are you just another brand on the shelf of the supermarket?
Tai: What about social media, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn?
Miguel: A lot of people want to be on social media, but some don’t know why. Their reason might be simply that the competition is doing it. Not because they have a particular need. I certainly recognize the power of social media but one size doesn't always fit all.
Tai: So having a Facebook page may not necessarily be the most productive, for example?
Miguel: That's what I explore with the client. There are certain mediums that may suit the brand better.
Tai: What about commercials that are vague or even deceptive?
Miguel: That is very destructive. People can spot that. You have to be true. Your brand has to be true. You’re representing your brand. So protect it. Don’t do things that are going to hurt the brand and get you in trouble.
Tai: What can business leaders learn?
Miguel: Some business leaders make the mistake of looking at external marketing as totally different from employee engagement. A CFO might suggest to his organization to stop spending money on one or the other. Why think this way? Maybe a better idea is somewhere in the middle. Embrace the latest research and technologies that enable employees to be more engaged with the organization's mission statement. Then involve that workforce in your great brand promotion campaign. Its hard to beat having a great ad and a great employee!
Any comments about your experiences? We'd love to hear from you!