I hear the phrase “Everything is changing” on a daily basis. In some ways, that’s true.
As it turns out, eight new planets might be capable of hosting life, you can use Amazon Prime to stay stocked up on household goods, and droning is now a thing.
Some of these developments will ultimately matter more than others.
In marketing and advertising, the same is true. You HAVE to filter through the sound and the fury, know when it signifies nothing, and excel at fundamentals that never change.
So, I reached out for advice from an industry veteran, Peter Platt, who’s seen it all. Here’s the sage advice he shared with me.
Tell me a few interesting facts about the legendary Peter Platt.
I am Peter Platt, Agency Veteran, and one of the first 100 people certified on Google AdWords.
I formed my own agency five years ago, have been in the business for 25 years, and have been involved in digital marketing since the early 1990’s.
I once hosted Google’s engineering team as an AdWords beta customer….and I’ve been to more iMedia conferences than Joe Pych!
What’s the biggest change in the field in the last 10 years and why did it matter?
The reality is mobile, and what it’s done for us.
Its adoption was predicted FOREVER, and it’s permanently changed the way human beings interface.
For example, my son was in the back of the car and asked me a little kid question. “Why is the sky blue?”, and like any father, I was going to make up an answer. He says, “Why don’t you ask Mr. Google?”
Our phones are no more than 3 feet from our body at any time of any given day. We take them to bed. They’re in the bathroom. We at all times immediately check our email, check our Facebook feed, check Twitter, see what’s going on.
Mobile has had the biggest impact on how we consume information. For example, “We need to talk to people who are in their car and trying to pick where to have dinner in the next hour”, is very different than “We need to send out flyers and hope people come eat here in 3 weeks.”
I think the evolution of wearables is another one that’s going to make a big impact. The simple reason is because it’s an extension of your phone on another part of your body. Basically, “I can’t tell what time it is or what messages I just got because my phone’s in my pocket, and I wish I didn’t have to take my phone out of my pocket to know that.”
It’s a communications game changer – but not a technology game changer.
What’s the biggest thing everyone THOUGHT would happen, that didn’t actually matter?
We haven’t gotten rid of the old things that were supposed to die. We just consume more information and keep it handy.
The fundamental premise of what a newspaper is, what TV is, what radio is, what magazines are, still exists. It’s just consumed differently. And monetized differently.
How has the Google AdWords platform improved since you began using it?
I think there has been more evolution in how people search than there has been in AdWords (Google might argue with me about that). The AdWords platform does a good job dealing with that fact. Now we search on 4 or 5 keywords in a phrase rather than the 1 or 2 when I started.
Literally, in 2000, people might search the internet for the word “Book”, because, “where can I find a book”.
Nowadays, we search for much more complex terms. Within AdWords, I can now tell it, “I want to buy the keyword ‘books on sale on Tuesdays,” and if my website sells books on sale on Tuesdays, I can get that traffic. It’s the ability to deal with the migration of how people’s search habits have changed, without fundamentally changing the ad format.
I think that consistency is one of the key benefits. They’ve added some enhancements, callouts, site links, and geotargeting is incredible.
The fact is, it was built on a very solid foundation. It’s all evolved, but it’s stayed true to its original goal and capability.
The fact that Google has kept the consistency of the platform has been really helpful. It has made it really work across the board. The inherent foundation of how it works has been continual.
The research tools have gotten a little better. The value of the number of people searching makes a huge difference too.
What’s your best advice for people starting out in advertising?
Probably the best advice given to me is, “You are not your target market.”
When you’re new to an industry, you bring baggage. We’ve all been watching TV, and young people have been on the internet their whole life. But they are not who they are talking to. It’s important to remember it isn’t about whether YOU like it – it’s about whether your target customer will like it, and why.
The “why” question is the best advice I have. Why are we doing this? It doesn’t have to be asked out loud, but think about it. Read as much as you can. Think like your audience.
A thirst for knowledge is also key. Our clients are always the best at whatever it is they do. No matter what they do, they want to be the best at that. But when you come in knowing something about their industry, you’ve read about it, you have the opportunity to become in their minds part of their team, not just a resource who’s handling their campaign.
I had a client a long time ago who only made batteries for engineers. So, the keyword ‘battery’ was a nice word, but of 100k searches a day gave us very few engineers. ‘Li-ion battery’ got us the people we actually needed.
You need to understand what people are actually searching for. It changes what your actual content should say. The whole idea of being intrigued and inspired by the messaging and understanding what it is people do is critically important.
Don’t chase the shiny metal object in the corner when the thing you need is right in front of you. There are some clients where Facebook makes perfect sense, others where it makes no sense. Just because everyone on earth is on Facebook, doesn’t mean you should put your message on Facebook.
And don’t toss out the baby with the bathwater.
What’s the most successful campaign you’ve ever run?
I’m thinking through this. I don’t know if I can answer it. There are so many variables.
Alright – I’ve got it. The best campaign is the one I’m starting today. Whichever campaign comes out next is my best campaign. Probably my worst was when I first started.
How do you adjust your targeting of millennials who are very active digitally, but most vulnerable to digital disruption?
We like to pick on millennials a lot nowadays, they’re easy targets. But the centerpiece around this is targeting.
Today’s media world is a much less engaged world than it used to be.
To get anyone, millennial or not to get two minutes doing something is a challenge.
We used to watch hour long programs. On Thursday night when we had good television, we’d watch all the shows in a row. We’d spend hours doing things.
We’re not flipping through a 100 page magazine, we’re clicking on the two links that are of interest to us in the NYT.
We get too caught up in the technology, not in what we want to do. My engagement on my phone is much shorter than it is on a desktop. We look at our phones in 30 second increments, or 3 second increments.
We need to adapt to the construct that people are looking for it.
Look at a restaurant website. It’s a good example.
If I’m on my desktop, I’m interested in what it looks like, what it’s like there, what the menu is like, and maybe pictures.
If I’m on my smartphone or mobile device, then I’m in my car. I want to know how to get there and if I can make a reservation right now on OpenTable. I’m not reading the menu, printing it out, and deciding what I want to eat next Thursday.
The world has gone to short attention span theater. We need to adapt and put things into snackable messaging. Create website snacks, and let people get the little taste they want. They’re not ready for a full meal.
What are essential skills for someone looking to launch their own agency?
This is what I’d tell anyone who wants to eventually launch their own agency.
You need to have the drive to answer “why”. It’s really easy to run an AdWords campaign, but it’s really hard to know “why” you’re running it.
If I go to the agencies of old, they focused on look at this beautiful image, this beautiful TV spot, whatever was elegant, sophisticated, but it didn’t necessarily get to why we’re doing this, which is “We’re supposed to make people aware of products. Show them the benefits. Get them to buy them.”
Sometimes we get outrageous about how we do that. But I think that drive to ask “why” is ultimately what it takes to succeed. We are agents. We are here to be the experts in the field, and to act on their behalf.
If you’re ever in Rochester and you’re in my conference room, you’ll see a little sign over the door that says “Why.” When I look at my Bionic delivery reports, I know I have the same creative in three spots, but I can see that one is working better. So I ask “why” – and we can make improvements.
The other thing I’d say is that it’s important to be OPEN to media options. I think a lot of people nowadays are “we’re digital first”, “search is the only thing that works.” TV still has a really important place. So does print. So does radio. Just assuming that one channel works and others don’t doesn’t make sense. You need to understand the MIX.
In the early days of digital, we used to agonize about this! But when we talk to clients, and they run TV ads, sales go up! It’s not linear, but it works.
Don’t assume you should just do digital, print, radio, social.
Be open to the mix. I’m the pot calling the kettle black. We focus on digital – I’m not saying that you have to build a full service agency, but you need to be open to the different opportunities, and remember what you’re trying to do.
At the end of the day, agencies help clients sell more stuff.
Why do we do ads? Sell more stuff. Why do we do brands? Sell more stuff. Why do we make websites? Sell more stuff.
No client has ever said, “We’re selling too much stuff, we want to scale back”.
What are the most important insights you receive from AdWords that lead to campaign adjustments?
People don’t spend enough time with the actual keywords that you get results from. Within AdWords, you’ve got your report that shows all the keywords you actually ran, what happened with them, all of that. But that doesn’t mean that’s exactly the keyword you matched up to.
I’ll take an example. If you have a silverware company, you are targeting “knife” because you sell silverware. But what happens is that if you pick “knife”, you get people who want to go hunting as well as people who want to eat their dinner.
When you just look the basic keywords, it’s hard to see the nuance.
The search term report lets you gain insight into which keywords are already working that can work better. Broad match would say if you bought the word sneakers, it could technically match up with BADMINTON shoes. When you look at the search term report, you see all kinds of things you’ve never thought to matching.
I could go on about this for a long time. It’s about the real search terms that real people use. It’s common with every client I’ve ever had, when we talk about ourselves, we speak in jargon. We’re so used to that, and actual people don’t know what we’re talking about.
It’s really hard to take yourself out of it, and see what people are really doing. When you get the search term report, you can see that. It’s a huge deal.
Negative search terms are a really powerful, and not enough people use them.
Those are the biggest opportunities for insight, and probably where I get the most value.
What’s the most useful thing you’ve gotten out of Bionic?
It sounds silly. You’re going to be like, “really?”
The best thing about Bionic is that when you have to make a change to a media plan, all the changes get made at one time.
Everybody gets the right version of the flowchart. Nobody pulls out the one that we did two weeks ago. Go to Bionic, there’s the right version. That part in and of itself is incredibly useful.
The other thing I really like?
The PowerPoint deck. I export it, I grab 4 of the 20 slides that were generated, and I put it into our format and use them. It’s an incredible time saver.
Ready for some fun questions to close our interview?
If you had to keep one celebrity alive while travelling across the Sahara desert on foot, in exchange for a tax-free, lump-sum payment of $2MM, would you choose to take Mr. T, Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, or Liza Minelli?
I don’t want to spend that much time with any of them. That’s a challenge for me. I’d want to pick who would annoy me the least. I’m going to have to go with Liza Minelli – I think she could at least carry on more of a conversation, which would motivate me.
Would you rather battle 100 duck sized horses, or 1 horse sized duck?
I’m going to go with 1 horse sized duck.
There are fewer variables. They are larger, but fewer. While ducks don’t really scare me, the idea of having 1 thing to deal with as opposed to 100 is easier. If the question was 10 duck sized horses, I would have answered that – but 100 duck sized horses would be out of control.
It’s a lot easier to control 1 of something than 100 of something. Maybe not control, but at least respond to.
Thanks again to Peter for this great advice! If you have anything else you’d like to ask, you can contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org , connect with him on LinkedIn, or learn more about P2 Digital at their website.