“How the hell do you know how ‘successful’ a project is when you’re creating ads for global tire companies?”
I remember wrestling with this question after seeing the meteoric rise of a local interactive agency that’s done work for Google, HBO, FedEx, Gillette, and tire manufacturers like BFGoodrich.
At around the time when I was brooding over this question, I was focused on growing my own small consultancy a few blocks down the street. And while both of our companies employed designers and developers and worked for clients, the similarities ended there.
My company focused on small businesses and startups that had solid business plans in place and needed someone to help them amplify their profits. We’d often come in to rewrite and reimplement legacy internal software that was creating a bottleneck internally. Or we’d help kick off new web and mobile apps with the intent that they’d generate more leads, more sales, and more of whatever financially-motivated thing our client needed us to do.
Grow, on the other hand, made really impressive interactive advertisements. If you remember the age of full-page Flash animations, this was how they got their start. They’d create beautiful and immersive experiences for brands that were a lot of fun to play around with and — presumably — ultimately profitable for their clients.
But I just couldn’t figure it out.
Here I was Socratically questioning my clients and trying my best to gauge the additional profit that our projects would bring to our clients… and down the street, a much more successful, much bigger agency was selling projects that were impossible to quantify the value of.
How many new tires will be sold because people see an ad featuring Olympic gold medal winner Shaun White drifting around a track in a race car? Impossible to tell.
Similarly, do you remember those ads that they’d play before movies that featured animated polar bears drinking Coca-Cola?
Do you think anyone has any idea how many cans of coke sold as a direct result of those ads?
Of course not.
And in the mind of this metrics-obsessed engineer-turned-consultant, that drives me crazy.
And I don’t seem to be the only one.
Every time I give a talk on or teach somebody about value-based pricing, I get asked: How to do you value projects that don’t have an obvious financial ROI?