Today’s business executives want more than attention-grabbing ads they are demanding ad messages that are in sync with their company’s strategic plan for growth, says Peter Krivkovich, president and CEO of Cramer-Krasselt Co., a 500-employee marketing communications firm that last year billed more than $550 million from clients including CareerBuilder, Hyatt Hotels, Master Lock and Steve Madden shoes.
“Creativity by itself is nothing,” says Krivkovich. “Creativity that is rooted in strategic insight is the key to success.”
Over the past year, powered by effective ads such as CareerBuilder’s “Working with Monkeys” campaign, Krivkovich and his team have delivered just that. Smart Business spoke with him about how CEOs are adapting to this brave new world and what it takes to remain on the creative cutting edge.
How have technological advancements altered the dynamics of advertising?
The fundamentals of compensation our revenue stream have changed dramatically. The bulk of compensation came out of traditional media television, newspaper, radio and magazines. At one time, it was a very simple formula of a fixed percentage; now, it’s a combination of hourly and percentage. But it’s always been tied to some expenditure of dollars.
Now, when you get into new media and the Internet, there is not a lot of cost involved. All of a sudden, your budget parameters are different, yet your labor costs can be fairly high because your labor intensity can be higher.
[Previously,] if you did three or four television commercials, you sat back and ran them. Now everything is viral, so on-demand in terms of messaging, that it is a constant action.
What new factors should a CEO take into consideration when thinking about how to craft and disseminate a message?
[There is] a whole series of different talents you have to incorporate. That doesn’t mean that those other ones go away, but there is a much broader spectrum of communication opportunities. It also requires certain kinds of people that, 10 years ago, you didn’t need. Think about it text messaging, product placement, a mini-series. We’ve done [that] for Sea-Doo and Ski-Doo eight half-hour shows on The Outdoor Network. This is something that just wasn’t done before.
Or even doing viral Web sites, as we have done for CareerBuilder, where we created a fictitious company that is run by monkeys. All of those things get young people involved in the product, the category and, ultimately, with the brand.
How does that affect creativity?
Creativity, more or less, hasn’t changed. The spectrum of opportunities for the creativity that can be utilized is much broader. There are more avenues to express it and more avenues that are extremely untraditional.
It’s everything from creating unusual Web sites to wrapping buses and posters to text messaging to video streaming.
How do you foster that type of creative thinking?
The biggest thing is getting people enthused and aware of all the opportunities. We have lots of group sessions. We bring in people who are working on niche technology or niche ways of getting something more interesting done, [such as] putting a chip on a cup of Coke that sings to you every time you drink it.
You constantly try to expose your people to many ideas and options, which may or may not be relevant, but may spark an idea somewhere else. You create a very fertile ground for ideas. (That) absolutely has to start at the top. It’s not going to be at the bottom; otherwise, it would get squashed.
Who are some of the most creative CEOs and how do they separate themselves from the pack?
Clearly, Phil Knight at Nike. All of the things that [Gregory D. Brenneman, CEO of] Burger King is doing. Also, [Matthew Ferguson, CEO of] CareerBuilder.
They are willing to look outside the box at ways to solve a problem. If you are solving problems in the traditional way, then your only hope is to outdo someone who is doing the same thing.
You may have a shot of outdoing someone once. Maybe you outdo someone twice. But it is highly unlikely that you are outdoing other competent competitors if they are doing the same thing you are doing and you are doing the same thing that they are doing.
It’s those CEOs who look at something and say, ‘We could do this, but here is a different avenue or two or three that we can get at the same consumer with the same loyalty, whatever the needs are.’
How important is it to integrate that thinking into a company’s strategic planning process?
It’s critically important. In today’s environment, you have technology and competition in almost any industry moving at such an incredible pace. Your ability to differentiate is windows that are increasingly open and closed at a faster and faster rate. What used to be a year advantage becomes eight months’ advantage becomes five months’ advantage. Sometimes, it’s literally weeks.
When you hit the market, when you launch something, when you introduce something, when you expose something to your user, whether it is B-to-B or B-to-C or any other combination, it has to be something that gets immediate attention, not attention that they’ll think about in six months, because in six months, they’ll have five other options.
What can happen in the execution stage that turns a good idea into a bad one?
When the people who are creating the idea get so wrapped up in the idea itself that they forget who they are talking to. They are more enamored with the execution of an idea than they are with the strategic underpinning of an idea.
What has made Cramer-Krasselt so successful?
We are basically brand transformers. We look at a brand and take all the attributes on the left hand side the rational things that a company is proud of and try to distill them down to one sentence. That is very hard to do. It takes us months of working with the company.
Then we take the right side, where the consumer is, and look at the issues the consumers have happiness, fears, anxiety, joys, etc. We take all of those things and distill that down to a sentence that is relevant to the issue.
And then we try to find a connection between the two. That connection is the insight that begins to drive you toward an execution that resonates.
How to reach: Cramer-Krasselt, (312) 616-9600 or http://www.c-k.com