A - We define it as using what we call the twelve basic techniques. Those are short-term incentives, and are usually deviations from the normal marketing mix. They would be (1) sampling, (2) coupons, (3) trade coupons, (4) trade allowances, (5) price-offs, (6) in-, on-, or near-packs, (7) free-in-the-mail premiums, (8) self-liquidating premiums, (9) contests and sweepstakes, (10) refund offers, (11) bonus packs, and (12) stamp and continuity plans. We are also heavily involved, as most sales promotions are, in collateral materials, such as sales displays; some trade advertising; and advertisement concepts that go to an advertising agency to execute; and support materials for promotions, selling pr grams, sales meetings, and introductions into the big major program I think many agency people are totally immersed in the advertising side. Sales promotion is sort of a "dirty word." For example, if they could do a coupon drop or a wonderful TV commercial, if they had the choice, they would be more glamorous and pick the TV promotion.
Q - What are your responsibilities?
A - My title is sales promotion manager, and my position entails a twofold responsibility: sales promotion and sales merchandizing. Sales promotion involves interfacing with different vendors for promotion ideas. They may be promotion houses that put together a slick presentation or movie presentation that we might use in conjunction with an ongoing program. For example, if we're going to launch a new product, we might have an outside firm come in and help us put together a promotion involving things like a sweepstakes event with special display packs, a special magazine advertisement, or a special T commercial. We could contact outside agents for all this or generate it all ourselves.
The other part of our job is sales merchandising, which entail sending bulletins to the field on current promotions. That would include a selling letter detailing the promotion itself, tips we have on selling i current marketing trends, SAMI, and Nielsen-all that information.
Our first function is to provide experience-based guidance to company brand groups regarding promotion, marketing problems, am opportunities. We also provide more proactive support in developing testing, and executing multi-division events and new promotion concepts. For example, when you open up your Sunday paper and there i an insert that has coupons from a whole group of brands and that perhaps has a free gift overlay to that, this is the kind of thing my group might coordinate. We're kind of an in-house agency to make sure that all people are marching in the same direction at the same time. It's even decentralized, and we provide some of the central responsibility. We also develop and test new promotional concepts.
We deal mainly with Fortune 500 clients. They have anywhere from one to five advertising agencies working for them. If a pro motion is to have media support, we do the mechanics and then turn i over to the advertising agency, which buys the media, because its department is more experienced in that.
I think a promotion agency typically concentrates on two things-to give you ideas and to execute those ideas. You have a marketing opportunity or a problem. You ask them how to convince people to buy a certain product, so that every time they go to the store they make hat purchase decision. Then a promotion agency might come back to out with ten or twelve ideas that can accomplish that objective. You would pick one, and they go out and execute it for you, whether it involves having someone stand in the grocery store and hand you a coupon, sending coupons in the mail, or any number of things. The agency would be responsible for making sure that it happened.
We are available to help brand groups when they want it. We try to return all calls within twenty-four hours. We make that our top priority. A typical counselor may make sixty to ninety brand counseling contacts a month. Some of those could last all day, and some could last five minutes.
We look at new ideas and try to interest brands in testing them. We screen outside ideas that come in. We get a lot of those. Everything from a singing dog to really good ideas. Sometimes we take something that someone else has done, and try to use it for our benefit.
Q - What would a typical career path be like?
A - There are really two paths. One is getting hired in promotion at the entry level and working your way up the staff. The other is coming in from one of the brand groups. Most people come in from the brand side.
When people are hired into promotion, they usually start as a premium or promotion assistant, which is an equivalent level to a brand assistant in the brand groups. Here they get a chance to start dealing with brands, but in a specific area: promotion. They cut their teeth and develop skills.
One person who started as a premium assistant moved over to the sampling group after about a year and is now a planning coordinator dealing directly with brands, and handling coupon and sampling issues. After another couple of years, she will probably have a feel for the brands and what promotion is the most effective. Then she might be ready for a brand counseling job.
A premium assistant, which is entry level, would be responsible for about two entire divisions. That isn't as scary as it sounds, because not all brands are active in premiums at the same time. Usually they'll go after a big idea once a year. What that developer does is work with the brands as an instigator for building the business with premiums. You name anything that has to do with that, and they will probably attack it. They deal with suppliers; they go to trade shows, so they have background in what is available; they study their brand's needs, so they know what the strategies are and what the brand is looking for; the suggest ideas; they get samples; and they make sure that the samples j to the right people for testing and that the samples are safe and legally quite a responsibility.
The career path in a promotion agency is very similar one that in an advertising agency. You've got the normal divisions: the creative people-the art directors, the writers, the planners-the account service; the occasional research organization or access to one; the production people-audio-visual, print, and so forth. It depends on where your expertise lies.
Most professional promotion agencies are almost identical to advertising agencies. The type of work is different, but the structure is pretty much the same. A great number of the promotion people are former advertising agency people.
In our particular agency, the pace and the size of the agency are such that we can't afford to train. We have tried it, and it just doesn't work. In a promotion agency, you are working on shorter term project rather than on a year-long advertising campaign. You need people who can get it out, get it out fast, and get it out good.