Payment on results

WeAreSocial’s Robin Grant tagged me (and various others) on Twitter, asking for opinions on Conservative proposals from Tory shadow chancellor George Osborne:

A Conservative government will require all public bodies that want to launch marketing campaigns to state precisely what behaviour change the advertising is designed to bring about, and an element of the advertising agency fee will be made contingent on achieving the desired outcome.

Like Robin post author Simon Collister, I can see good and bad in this. I’m inclined to agree with anything which makes government think much harder about its communications spending: the whole reason I started down the open source technology route with Puffbox was because I felt we were spending too much money, and receiving too little in return. I’m all for bad projects being held to account, and good projects to be held aloft as exemplars.
But it’s going to be incredibly difficult to make such a rule make sense. Too many factors involved, too much hard cash at stake.
If marketing operated in a vacuum, with no external factors – and, by the way, no client involvement / interference – then maybe you could compare the situation before with the situation after, and say that any difference was solely down to the quality of the campaign. But of course it doesn’t. And even if it did, you’d be assuming absolute trust in the measurement of the ‘before’ and ‘after’ – which would, in many cases, be government statistics. You can imagine the worries around conflicts of interest, potential and perceived. And where potentially large sums of money are at stake, lawyers gather.
And what would happen if the target were exceeded, perhaps considerably? No reward? All stick, no carrot?
Robin wonders if any such rules would be applied to websites and other social media. I’d draw a distinction between scenarios where you are doing the communicating on behalf of the client, and where you’re enabling the client to communicate themselves. Virtually everything Puffbox does is the latter: more’s the pity, sometimes. So the only metrics my output can be judged on are the deliverables: did we do what we said we’d do, in the agreed time and for a reasonable budget. And on those, I’ve got no worries whatsoever.
Bottom line: I doubt this would change much for me, and others in similar situations. We’re only as good as our last job, as they say; and it would only bring the threat one step closer. Same threat though. And that’s fine.

One thought on “Payment on results”

  1. Many advertising/marketing agencies work this way already and have done for decades. Some actually encourage it, it’s not a new way of working.
    If you’re good you’ll get paid if you’re not you won’t. You agree the metrics, the success levels/triggers and the reward structure with the client in advance and proceed from there.
    Most of the time the government is trying to change behaviour or perception. The commercial world tends to measure success in cold hard sales, there are many methods and devices for tracking the effect of campaigns and marketing activity – which could also be applied to a government campaign.
    Often research will be done to determine the baseline at time of commencement.
    A good marketeer or strategist takes into account all the external factors and variables when planning the campaign, from the creative to delivery to redemption – and that includes the client if necessary. Most agencies calculate and already know the success of every activity they undertake both for their own records and because their commercial clients already demand it.
    If it makes department think harder and more strategically then great. It should shake up some agencies that see government as a cash cow with less responsibilities than the open market.
    A marketing campaign is one thing but designing and delivering a tool for the client to use, modify and populate themselves (which you’d have no control over) is another. Should this come to pass, Puffbox should be ok!

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