In June 2013 I was interviewed about my experience in Austin television advertising by the online business publication MO.com. Here are highlights from the interview.
MO: How did your previous experience with Time Warner Cable as an account executive help prepare you for launching your own advertising agency?
Bill: I had clients on day one because several of my Time Warner clients immediately became my first Frink Inc. Advertising agency clients. In my capacity as a Time Warner rep. I had become a de-facto agency to these clients because I had put their business interests ahead of my own. I was more than their Time Warner rep. I was a resource for information on the general advertising market including other local television and radio stations. I was willing to give clients honest opinions and when there were problems with Time Warner I addressed them quickly and forth rightly admitted my own mistakes when I made them. I didn’t give my clients this kind of service out of the goodness of my heart. I wanted strong relationships with clients and I knew that in the long term this served my interests as well my clients’. As I became a valued resource I gained clients’ trust and loyalty—which is invaluable in a business relationship.
I want to expand on one of these points. Often mistakes or problems in a business transaction or relationship offer an opportunity to forge bonds with customers if you handle the problem quickly and honestly. You learn the most about people during large and small crises that eventually will occur in the course of any business relationship.
MO: Why do you think that it’s important for businesses to put together a local advertising strategy?
Bill: “All politics is local,” this is an expression attributed to a former Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neil, that also applies to why a business needs a solid local advertising strategy. O’Neil was making the point that a politician’s success is directly tied to how well he handles his constituents’ needs and concerns.
A local business, unless it’s a national franchise that benefits from a strong national advertising strategy and budget, to survive and thrive better have a well-conceived local advertising and marketing strategy that it can afford to execute consistently.
Two cases in point:
1. I was a partner in the convenience store business and our first location was on the opposite corner from a national brand convenience store. Our store was previously a franchised operation of a regional convenience brand that had closed down. The stores were located in a thriving off-campus college apartment community in Austin, Texas. My partner and I were recent graduates of the University of Texas at Austin and we had lived in the neighborhood. We were confident that the location that we were taking over was an excellent location and that we could successfully compete against the national brand across the street if we catered specifically to college students. We did this with dozens of tactics executed on a daily basis. A few of the tactics we used were: Maintaining the largest selection of beer in the neighborhood which we advertised in the U.T. newspaper but most importantly on our illuminated reader board that stood on our corner. We also used that reader board for hip and or humorous local commentary when we could think of it and for tongue in cheek advertising of weird items that we didn’t really have. For instance, “Get your Abe Vigoda posters while they last.” Or, “Sorry out of Squid.” Well they were funny at the time.
We played rock music, loudly, over the stores sound system that included speakers outside the store. We employed some college students from the neighborhood. We scooped Blue Bell Ice Cream and we may have been the first convenience store to serve fresh breakfast tacos prepared fresh daily behind the counter.
2. My agency has had Buffet Palace, a locally owned Asian buffet restaurant with multiple locations, as a client since 1998. In that time, countless Chinese and traditional buffet restaurants have opened and closed in Buffet Palace’s trade area. At least two of the restaurants that have come and gone were national chains. One of the factors that has made Buffet Palace successful for so long is their positioning in the market place as restaurant with not only Chinese items on the buffet but also authentic Korean and Japanese dishes as well—all prepared fresh daily with original recipes. Our agency has helped Buffet Palace promote their position or brand with an Austin television advertising campaign that has been running non-stop since 1998. The 30 second television spots are dominated by food shots and tout Buffet Palace’s designation as being voted the best buffet restaurant in Austin year after year by readers of the Austin Chronicle, the go to source for Austin culture, entertainment and live music news since 1981. The commercials also feature the Buffet Palace jingle we developed for them. “When you have an occasion for Asian we offer more ways…Buffet Palace the best buffet!”
I would be remiss if I didn’t close by mentioning Google’s on-going efforts to deliver sites with most relevant localized content above the fold on page one to users’ queries related to buying local goods and services.
MO: What are the key components of executing successful television and radio advertising campaigns?
Bill: That’s a broad question and of course as the owner of an advertising agency I could bloviate on this topic for a long time but let’s see if I can be brief:
1. Know your business’ strength advantages in the market place and use them to stake out a unique position in the marketplace. Then trumpet that position or brand consistently and continuously with a clear concise message that asks your prospective customers for the order.
2. I work with clients in local advertising markets and the biggest mistakes I see on a local basis are cheap script writing and cheap production. I’m not talking $uper Bowl production values here but don’t scrimp on the script writing and quality spot production. Few things can be worse for a business’ brand than obviously cheaply conceived and produced television and radio commercials.
3. Building upon my first point, advertise continuously. You should consider your advertising budget to be equally as important as your rent, utilities and payroll. One of my favorite clients was a local retail chain whose patriarch was the quintessential wheeler dealer, promoter and pitch man. He advertised on television continuously month after month with a very healthy media budget. When he died a few years ago, sadly at relatively young age, his operation passed to his children. His children reduced the advertising budget approximately 50 percent almost immediately. Their business suffered and they puzzled at the dwindling success of their advertising compared to when the old man had been setting the budget. The four store chain is now down to one store. I can’t lay all the blame for the business’ dwindling prospects on a reduced advertising budget but I have no doubt it was big factor.
MO: How has Frink Inc. Advertising evolved since launching over 10 years ago?
Bill: When I launched the agency I was coming directly from 11 years as a local television advertising sales representative. So naturally my agency’s initial focus was all mostly about providing media buying expertise to clients. However I didn’t lack an appreciation and interest in the creative side of advertising and I quickly learned that prospective clients were much more interested in my creative vision for their business then they were my media expertise. Therefore I expanded the scope of the agency’s operation to include television commercial and radio production by hiring a veteran producer that I had worked closely with at Time Warner and forming a partnership with a creative writing and design boutique. This expansion also led our agency into the marketing and training video business which since 2004 has accounted for a substantial portion of our revenue.
In 2008 as a result of client demand I began researching Search Engine Optimization and pay per click advertising. Subsequently I became responsible the interviewing and hiring of SEO firms for some of my clients. My agency at that time also began creating content, both video and text, for several clients.
MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?
Bill: With Google’s emphasize on localization and the resulting change in effective strategies for local SEO I have begun developing a local linking strategy service for my clients. It’s work that fascinates me and is and is adding a new sense of professional fulfillment for me which is a blessing in the 35th year of my professional life.
On a personal note, I began a blog: http://willieearl.com/ about Texas Longhorn Football six years ago that has gained a small but loyal and growing following. At least a few people enjoy and look forward to my commentary and storytelling each week during football season.