August 2, 2013

Wichita Business Journal
Josh Heck

Wichita’s advertising agencies are increasingly making the transition to digital marketing services.

In conjunction with this week’s list of the Wichita area’s biggest advertising agencies (see Page 16), we asked the 23 firms we surveyed whether their clients prefer digital advertising or traditional platforms, such as print or static billboards.

Of the 19 firms that answered, most said they’re seeing increased client interest in digital advertising.

Jeremy Luginbill, owner of Lifeboat Creative, says digital advertising has become a staple of clients’ marketing strategy.

“Clients are becoming more savvy to how technology can work for them in the advertising realm,” Luginbill says.

Hanson & Wright LLC says it’s also seen a significant increase from its entire customer base for digital advertising. And RSA Marketing Services says a digital component is a “critical part” of all its client relationships.

Greteman Group says it is helping its aviation clients weave more interactivity into their marketing, which tends to be heavy on industry publications and trade shows. Clients are deploying more online ads and being more active in social networks.

Other agencies say their clients are using more digital advertising but, in general, expect it to be part of a mix that includes traditional media. “It’s an even mix, but it’s just the fact that it never has been an even mix,” says Tony Blake, owner of Tony Blake Design. “That’s more and more becoming the norm.”

Sullivan Higdon & Sink Inc. says its clients are choosing online and social media platforms as part of an overall marketing strategy. Some firms, though, are predominantly digital.

Colab Digital Marketing, for example, says its clients are funding their move to digital by cutting their spending in traditional media.

Creative Director Daniel Drouhard says advances in technology are making digital advertising more appealing.

“Analytics are getting stronger, and the tools that we have at our disposal are getting more sophisticated,” Drouhard says.

Different strategies

Digital advertising presents advertisers opportunities to quickly reach a target audience and update information easily.

Digital advertising can also save money, and the return on investment is easier to track and measure, something the firm Armstrong Chamberlin pointed out in its response to our survey.

For example, Lifeboat’s Luginbill says email blasts have become a popular alternative to direct-mail. While the cost to design a print piece and an email are similar, the cost to duplicate and send them is dramatically different. Electronic campaigns typically include a core charge — often $10 to $20, Luginbill says — to allow use of software that sends hundreds of emails from one account without triggering spam filters. Then there’s typically a small charge per recipient.

So if a business pays a $10 core charge to send out 1,000 emails, plus 2 cents per recipient — typical, Luginbill says — the cost would be $30 for one e-blast. To print and mail that same number of direct-mail pieces could cost $1,000 or more.

Digital billboards are another part of advertisers’ digital strategy.

Colab’s Drouhard says digital billboards allow for messages to be changed with more immediacy. Digital billboards have grown so popular that there’s now a backlog of a month or two in many cases for space on digital billboards, Drouhard says.

Digital is big and it’s Colab’s focus, but like his competitors, even Drouhard says it’s just one component of a holistic approach to marketing that also incorporates traditional advertising.

Top 5 Advertising agency employment

A comparison of the employee counts among the top five companies on this week’s advertising agencies list, versus their number of employees in 2011.

Company name 2013 employee count 2011 employee count
1. Sullivan Higdon & Sink Inc. 41 50
2. Associated Integrated Marketing 22 31
3. Greteman Group 21 22
4. Results Direct Marketing 21 16
5. Howerton & White 16 14

© Wichita Business Journal, 2013