From the Desktop of Steve Graham, Vice President, Creative

February 15

What do Kellogg's Corn Flakes have to do with "free" creative?

My college roommate's father, Big Jim, owned a True Value hardware store in Midland, Michigan. This is an odd coincidence as my very first professional copywriting job was with a Sales Promotion Agency that worked with Cotter Co./True Value and several of the Kellogg's brand cereals. One promotion we developed for Corn Flakes was a coupon on the back of the cereal box good for one free key at any participating True Value Hardware Store. When Big Jim found out I worked for the Agency that developed that promotion, he said: "Steve, that's the best promotion we've ever done. I still take ads out in the local paper with coupons for a free key."

Surprised, I asked Big Jim why people would drive all the way across town, stand in line and wait around a hardware store for over 20 minutes just for a free key worth a buck at most. And I'll never forget Big Jim's response: "Steve, it's because they think they are getting something free." "But, Big Jim," I protested, "they are getting something free." And that's when Big Jim introduced me to the concept of the loss leader. He said: "Steve, I know I'm averaging $5.00 in sales for every single person who walks in my store. If I can give away $200.00 in 'free' keys, my return on investment - on average - will be $800.00." (200 people x $5.00 per person in sales = $1000.00 minus $200.00 in key costs - for a profit of $800.00.) "They don't realize it," he went on smirking, "but that free key just cost them five bucks - not to mention gas and their time."

Some recruitment agencies like to play the free key bait and switch with their creative offering. We've all heard the pitch: "choose us, we don't charge for creative." What they are not telling us is that the initial cost for creative development we don't pay up front is being paid ten-fold down the line. The reason? Agencies whose business model is based on revenue from print media markup are more apt to recommend print media, whether or not it's the best solution. So, you may save a few dollars up front by not paying for initial creative development, but I'm willing to bet you're not getting the most creative options and will end up spending that money week after week, running the same ad over and over, trying to fill that open position.

Agencies that charge for an overall strategic roadmap (and resulting creative executions) are not reliant on that print markup for the majority of their revenue. As a result, these agencies are in a more objective position to offer the solutions that are right for you - ultimately saving you more money, spending it smarter, and increasing your overall ROI.

To learn more about TMP Worldwide's unique, truly strategic approach to creative problem solving, and our undisputed award-winning work, give me a call at 312-321-5810. Or email me at Hey, I'll even throw in a free key.

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