Hiring A Below The Line Agency

7 mistakes brands make when doing BTL


Below-the-line is an all-encompassing term that is often vilified and mostly used to describe almost anything that doesn’t fall under mainline advertising, digital marketing.  This is especially true in India where the industry is yet to mature into specialized businesses within the ambit of what constitutes BTL. Having worked in this industry for the past 18 odd years, we have seen a thread of common mistakes brands tends to make when their begin a BTL activity.

Here are our list of top 7 mistakes that we have seen clients make.

  1. Being unclear on the BTL objective

The biggest mistake operating managers make is being unclear of what the objective of the BTL campaign is. This often results in a confused activation and dangerously low impact of the campaign on the ground.  The lack of clarity can be usually attributed to the lack of involvement of senior managers in the planning process both on the client and agency side.

  1. Hiring on basis of costs.

We all live under extremely tight budgets as marketers. However the pre-ponderence of clients on costs often lead to hiring of agencies purely on basis of costs. The BTL industry has no barriers to entry and exit, and is filled with several one –man army of ‘experts’, who often undercut larger agencies to pick up businesses.

While this is a great example of competition and should be encouraged, the mistake most operating managers make is to equate costs with the same level of quality of execution that a higher cost budget would provide.

Executing a BTL campaign is unlike executing a media campaign and it is very difficult to compare the quality that a higher cost budgeted quote would provide vs a lower quoted budget. This usually leads brands to choose the lower costs. The result is often a badly managed activity largely due to the lack of internal resources of the chosen agency.

  1. Buying wrong expectations

One of the fundamental flaws that we have noticed over the years in India is the fact that agencies often tend to set completely illogical expectations on their own and worse still, clients tend to buy those expectations without using common sense logic.

Promises are made without thinking and accepted without reasoning. The result is an active churn of employees on both sides post the campaign!

  1. Hiring the wrong agency

How do you chose which BTL agency to hire? Especially when everyone seems to be doing exactly the same as everyone else? With exactly the same logistic reach, clients, experience et all? Simple, if you are client, you tend to quickly select whoever is fast enough to revert on your brief. The reason for this is not hard to find. Most BTL campaigns are planned with little time to execute and often operating managers are under pressure to quickly mount the campaign, at times within a week.

Making mistakes in hiring the wrong agency is perhaps the biggest reasons why many operating managers tend to lose their jobs or look for alternative employments.

  1. Letting self-perceptions over rule common sense

I believe, therefore I am right. Many operating managers tend to force their own beliefs and perceptions on their BTL agencies. And on their part, BTL agencies mostly tend to seek the path of least resistance when it comes to dealing with clients.

  1. Negotiations on agency fees.

How do clients think that BTL agencies make money? Through their agency fees. How do agencies actually make money? Through in-built buffers on the various activity elements.

We often encounter clients who insist on negotiating on agency fees rather than on the overall cost. Most agencies are only too happy to bring down their agency fees while they laugh their way to the bank.

If you have to negotiate, do so on the overall budget rather than on specific line items.

  1. Reduced time to launch

The last is a humdinger. Most operating managers tend to believe that BTL is simply putting more resources on the job. While months are spent on debating every issue of the TV campaign right down to the color of the wall behind the lead model, most managers tend to quickly brush away discussions and debates on BTL campaigns.

The average time a BTL agency is given to launch a campaign is usually under 15 days and more closer to a 10 day time frame. As a result, the execution is usually flawed from day one.

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