Agency’s Cure for the Summertime Blues

By the time this column publishes, I will have embarked on my summer vacation. With most of my staff and clients successively following suit, I started thinking: is summer typically a lull time for agencies?

Of course, the answer largely depends on the clients the agency services, but certainly summer vacations of client decision-makers coupled with softer consumer buying patterns may reduce the sense of urgency to get things done. With that in mind, here are a few items to consider through the summer months.

Online Advertising Still Trending Upward

According to figures from the Interactive Advertising Bureau, since 2005 online advertising spending has continued to rise quarter over quarter:

Online Advertising Revenues, Q1 2005-Q1 2007
Quarter Online Advertising ($B)
Q1 2007 4.9
Q4 2006 4.8
Q3 2006 4.2
Q2 2006 4.1
Q1 2006 3.9
Q4 2005 3.6
Q3 2005 3.1
Q2 2005 2.98
Q1 2005 2.85
Source: Interactive Advertising Bureau, 2007

Certain Verticals Spend More in Summer Months

If your agency strategically balances clients to ensure constant demand, a summer lull may not be in the cards. Verticals like travel, tourism, and hospitality thrive in the summer months. The beverage industry booms, homeowners tackle improvement and redecorating projects, movie studios and family entertainment centers spend big bucks vying for our attention, weddings and other events get planned. According to a survey conducted by Prince & Associates for “Elite Traveler” magazine, the übber wealthy will spend almost 56 percent more this summer than in 2005.

Keep Up Your Industry Education

There’s no shortage of industry trade shows or conferences this summer, so if you find yourself with downtime, attend that conference you couldn’t squeeze in earlier this year. Summer is also a great time to catch up on your business reading and competitive intelligence and to get better acquainted with your clients’ world. The more you know about your clients’ competitors, what’s happening in their industry, and new trends or needs, the better you can serve them going into the second half of the year.

Review and Evaluate

Use the summer lull to review past buys, if you haven’t had time to do so already, and assess where there may have be room for improvement. Ask your clients to share their overall marketing results thus far. Knowing how their initiatives have been performing could reveal new opportunities or ideas for future online media initiatives. Evaluate your internal processes, identify common obstacles or repetitive stumbling blocks, and try to adjust your systems to avoid those same mishaps moving forward. Summer might also be the time to take some of those new software demos for that long postponed test spin. Maybe the outcome will be an improvement in agency efficiencies come fall.

Prepare Now

If your client notoriously plans a huge back-to-school effort, you should obviously be building that plan now. Less obvious but just as crucial, you should be talking holiday strategy now with aggressive clients who push hard for results. Multitactical, integrated initiatives like an ad-supported social media or a viral push take a long time to plan and get off the ground successfully.

There are multiple components to consider: Web sites to optimize, microsites to build, product reviews to nurture, blogs to write, e-mail lists to expand, links to acquire, videos to film…the list goes on. If you don’t have these discussions now with your client, by the time you do, it might be too late. You’ll find yourself settling for the same ol’ standby like some boring display campaign.

Recruit Now

The statistics and forecasts show online advertising is only going to grow, which means the successful agency is going to need more staff. Why not fill the summer void by recruiting for positions you anticipate you’ll need to fill instead of waiting until you do need to fill them? Just because you’re advertising for a position doesn’t mean you’ll fill it immediately, and job seekers on the prowl might take notice. Besides, the interview, orientation, and training process can take months. Better to anticipate than to wait until crunch time.

I wish I had downtime in the summer. I’m a big believer in anticipation and planning ahead. I guarantee my vacation will seem like a vague memory within two hours of returning to the office. Au revoir!

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