Bringing in the Ad Pros

By Hannah Wallace December 31, 2005

As we enter 2006 and look around, it's hard not to notice the significant physical changes brought by the past year. Sarasota and Manatee are well into dramatic evolutionary stages marked by development and growth. If we look beyond the obvious growth signs involving new construction, we might also see some more subtle signs of progress.

One of those indicators lays within this magazine and its sister publication, SARASOTA Magazine. It is the caliber of the advertising in these books that is so clearly evident. What seemed to be a gradual raising of the quality bar for print advertising over the past couple of years has recently accelerated. Gradual was replaced by precipitous during the last few months of 2005, when we were exposed to the inspired new ad campaigns of quite a few advertisers.

What just about all these ads have in common are that they were developed by ad agencies, which is no surprise. Over the last couple of years an increasing amount of our ad revenue has been coming from agencies. This increased usage of ad agencies by local advertisers is a healthy sign of economic progress. It means more companies are either reaching maturity levels that call for professional outsourcing or-what may even be a more promising factor-perhaps small and medium-sized companies are better understanding the importance of tapping into advertising expertise. The heads of these businesses are smart enough to know what they don't know. This honest, egoless comprehension is a mark of true intelligence, undoubtedly a prerequisite for maximizing success.

Seeing advertising as a professional specialty such as law and accounting is an appropriate perspective. After all, the ad-agency business has been around since 1843, and has greatly contributed to both national and local economic growth by increasing revenues. Of course, generating sales is an oversimplification. On the way to increasing their clients' revenues, ad agencies provide lasting benefits involving increased awareness, effective branding, building image and strategic positioning.

I sense something else is going on in our market regarding agencies and clients. Based on some of the great advertising I'm seeing, I think more clients are really listening to their agencies. After asking them for recommendations, clients may actually be focused on that advice, rather than telling the experts what their ads should say and how they should look. This is not to say that automatic approvals are ever warranted. After all, it is the client's business and money. Honest, intelligent discourse about a potential ad campaign should always be part of the process. But keeping a genuinely open mind should be a client's obligation to its agency and to itself.

Developing an ad campaign that successfully resonates with a desired target market is a learned skill, and I'm thrilled that we're seeing more of that skill in action. Aside from the gratification that comes with seeing our advertisers' businesses grow, I value their great-looking ads that enhance the look of our magazines. And I'm confident our readers have the same appreciation. It's with the whole magazine experience-the editorial content and the ads-that readers connect. It's about their anticipation when picking up a new issue that they'll not only enjoy compelling articles but also attractive ads. So on behalf of our readers, thank you, ad agencies, for heightening their experience.

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