Nobody wins a turf war when it comes to advertising

April 2, 2015

By John Foust
Ad Libs™ 

This story has a cast of five characters:

1. The advertising salesperson worked hard to build relationships with clients, learn their objectives and develop marketing plans. Because he had previously worked as a copywriter at an ad agency, he had unique marketing insights.

2. The graphic designer saw herself as an artist, and indeed had impressive design skills. However, she had no contact with advertisers. Her goal was to make each ad a work of art. She resisted suggestions and acted like she was threatened by others’ knowledge of ad design and creativity.

3. The advertising director managed the salesperson and the graphic designer. Her goal was to oversee ad revenue. She wanted everyone to do their jobs, follow the rules, keep quiet, leave her alone and make money for the paper.

4. The big entity in the background was the corporate newspaper office, which had ironclad policies for its newspaper properties. In their minds—and in their employee manual—salespeople sell and creative departments create.

5. The advertiser in the story had little confidence in the ads the paper created for him. Although the ads looked good, they didn’t produce the results he needed. As a result, he was seriously considering cutting back—or not renewing—his ad contract with the paper.

Tensions had been building for several months. The inevitable collision was set off when the advertiser approved a series of ads, which were proposed by the salesperson. When the graphic designer saw the layouts—with copy written, type specified and illustrations selected—she hit the roof and complained to the ad manager. It was the classic case of a complainer and a person who wants the problem to disappear. In the interest of a quick fix, the ad manager told the salesperson to “stop being creative.”

What happened in the end? The salesperson found another job. The ad manager eventually left the advertising industry, after experiencing nearly 100 percent turnover in the sales department. The advertiser took his advertising elsewhere. The graphic designer celebrated the hollow victory of regaining control of the paper’s creative product, but lost the chance to develop ads for that advertiser. So in reality, everybody lost.

In today’s competitive advertising environment, it is crucial for sales and creative departments to work together. If salespeople have unique creative talents, encourage them to use those skills in developing ad campaigns. And if graphic designers are particularly effective in explaining creative techniques, encourage them to talk with advertisers who want inside information on the production of their ads. It’s called teamwork.

What would have been the right approach? In my opinion, the ad manager was in position to come up with a solution. She could have seen the conflict as an opportunity to challenge a bad company policy. And she could have encouraged everyone on her staff—not just the two at the center of the controversy—to bring their talents to their jobs.

Tire pioneer Harvey Firestone once said, “The growth and development of people is the highest calling of leadership.” © John Foust 2015. All rights reserved.


John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information

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