“Washroom networking”: from Europe to Australia
An interview by Pham Thi Thu Ly (s3426085) with Mr. Timothy Costigan, former general manager (2000-2005), Convenience Advertising (http://www.conads.com/info/general/Home/get/0/0/).
It was a lazy Thursday afternoon when no one came to Mass Media makeup class, except for me and another student. While waiting to see if the others would come, we had a chat about our school and Advertising industry, and somehow it took Tim to mention his work as the general manager for Convenience Advertising, the first agency to put advertisements on the washroom doors. I just couldn’t stop asking more, and so the story was opened.
The first challenge they faced was getting the building owners to agree with the ad placements in washrooms. The more toilets you get in your “collection”, the more powerful you are.
“The only way to do that,” said Tim, “is to meet every single venue owner, tell them about the campaign and persuade them to contract”. It should be noted that they don’t do that with every single owner in the country, but in the list they make about places that target audience usually come, such as universities, stadiums or night clubs. A big university can have a thousand toilet doors.
That was easy to persuade them. Tim revealed their always-win persuading tips:
ConAds representative: “we’re making a public health promotion campaign for the Government”.
“The campaign is about the issues that your customers are facing.”
“And we’ll pay you for it”
“Okay how many posters? When can we start???”
Easy like that, if you know who to talk to (owners of the relevant places), what to say that is relevant to them (the campaign is related to building owner’s customers) and how to say it that emphasizes them to their benefits (the building owner can not only participate in a socially useful Governmental campaign but also get paid for it!).
By doing so, ConAds built a network with hundred thousand of washroom doors in which their right to place the ad was clarified by contracts. This network has been the weapon to win more and more Governmental health promotion campaigns. When I asked Tim how they won contracts, the answer got me surprised.
While the key to keep clients is claimed as internal relationship (Solomon 2008) and small caring actions (Gitomer 1998), Tim and partners owned the doors to long-term Governmental contracts by only two things: expertise and the venue network. Tim’s knowledge and experience gained during 5 years working in HIV prevention made him able to show up deep and wide understanding of health issues and health promotion. “Plus, we have a media system that the other agencies don’t, which is the network of washroom doors. Our management keeps it in control.”
In order to gain clients, ConAds’s case point out the necessity to know exactly what they need, no matter how big your agency is. An agency that made a campaign for Heineken shouldn’t take it to pitch a health promotion campaign, because they will fail. The ability to properly provide client with what they need to run the campaign will take you to the winner position.
ConAds has been the king in running health promotion campaign for European Governments. Clients trusted their knowledge and love the media system that they owned and managed. Building owners are about 90% to agree with placing the ad in their washrooms, because that is for a good purpose that doesn’t cost them anything. Things changed when the agency expanded their working area from full-service in Europe to media selling in Australia.
Networking with building owners then became difficult. Their clients are no longer Governmental but commercial, who advertise for benefit. The owners see this point so it was hard to persuade them. Many of them asked for more money. “They may agree with 20 cents a week for a health promotion poster, but ask for 2 dollars a week for a P&G advertisement, because they know P&G is a multi-billion dollar company”, said Tim.
– But P&G didn’t pay that much to satisfy the owners’ requirements I guess?
– Well, – Tim said, putting his hands behind head, lying head a bit on the green sofa – commercial clients usually pay more for a campaign. But what’s different is the length of the contract. A campaign for commercial product may not happened so long, so the thing is ConAds need to put the ad there for 3 weeks then take it down. This means less benefit for them as the contract ended. Meanwhile with Governmental client, we can have a list of 1 month to 6 months campaigns to go. I think working for the European Government is more beneficial for us, as we work as a full-service agency, while we work with commercial client in the terms of media selling only.
Tim added that no matter how long the contract is, how much the client pay for it, all of them rely on one thing to choose agency: working quality. In both Europe and Australia, clients look at the work, not the gifts, and that’s all about it. No football match, no karaoke, no parties and no presents.
Though networking is more difficult in Australia than in the Europe, ConAds never change their key networking quality: honesty.
“You need to be honest. Never tell a lie. Ever.” said Tim, “Because once you’ve lost trust, you can’t regain it. So never put yourself in a position when you start lying to people. Be gentle, authentic, friendly.”
The story of Convenience Advertising is still on-going till today, and that honesty doesn’t seem to be changed.
From the writer: makeup class really helps
Networking, as we may know, is more than going to an event, introducing yourself and giving cards (Woollacot 2012). They are things that every person does. Through the interview, I realized that networking starts from the smallest things, which not many people do. They can be being an MC for a match or writing an article (Woollacot 2012) or having a look at the toilet of the person (Dung 2013), or going to a makeup class 😉 Look around and pay attention to the details, someone we know may be someone we don’t know – I mean, how surprising it is to know that the lecturer who keeps talking about historical and political issues was actually a health expert and an agency manager before? That’s what interesting about networking. It is to not only get a job, or get something done, but also know more about people you already know, and listen to their story with full of insights and experience.
Convenience Advertising n.d, images, Convenience Advertising, viewed 9th January 2014, <http://www.conads.com/info/general/Home/get/0/0/>
Gitomer, Jeffrey 1998, “Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless How to Make Them Love You, Keep You Coming Back, an Tell Everyone They Know”, Bard Press, Gitgo, LLC.
Hoang, D 2013, “Networking”, in-class lecture, Client Management, RMIT University, Vietnam.
Solomon, R 2008, “The Art of Client Service”, 2nd edition, Kaplan Publishing, New York, USA.
Woollacoot, H 2012, “Work Prep for Client Managers”, video posting, Youtube, viewed 24th December 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLffF0z7scp3wothQixoO0p0tCnz_nJsad&feature=view_all>.