Agency CEOs Talk Consumer Engagement

Panel says strategy benefits consumers as well as advertisers

Agencies are seeing big pay-offs when they get consumers directly involved in their ad campaigns—and so are the customers.

At the Bloomberg CEO Summit on Wednesday evening, agency CEOs discussed the importance of engaging consumers in a hands-on way in order to set themselves apart in a crowded marketplace. This tactic, described by Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners’ CEO Greg Stern as “giving the consumers some kind of reward for their time,” has led to winning campaigns.

Andrew Keller, CEO of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, emphasized that “building utility and the brand at the same time” has proven to be an effective—and inexpensive—way to go. Keller described CP+B’s strategy for creating an experience for Domino’s Pizza lovers: The agency decided to avoid the high cost of fancy food photography by asking Domino’s consumers to submit their own pictures of their Domino’s meals. In return, the consumers all got free pizzas. The response was overwhelming, though it did show the potential downside of this kind of strategy—the amateur photographers' submissions weren't nearly as appetizing as professional shots would have been.  

At least one agency’s campaign has contributed real value to the lives of customers eager to play a role. That's according to Sharon Napier, CEO of Partners + Napier, who discussed what began as a regional Blue Cross Blue Shield campaign. The agency started out by asking itself a question: "How do we make a healthcare card something that you turn to when you’re healthy?" First, it launched a humorous ad framing the last spot in the grocery store parking lot as the healthiest—it's 200 paces from the entrance, after all.

From there, it forged ahead with a “Step Up” program, in which it gave customers the opportunity to access online health coaches, connect with community walking groups, and track their eating habits. The program became more sophisticated, and customers could earn points through these activities to save money on their healthcare coverage. Within two years, it was possible for a family who actively participated to save up to $1,000 per year.

Keller summed up how consumer cooperation can lead to a groundbreaking campaign by saying, “The reaction is the opportunity a lot of the time.”