B To B-ing. Remember That?

brtWhen it comes to achieving excellence in advertising creativity, most people immediately look to the ads themselves. But creativity goes far beyond that. The people who figure out the media strategy have a much more difficult task in many ways. They must answer to two masters: Creative ad placement and the bottom line.

This month we honor the Best & Brightest Media Strategists – the people who have proven that they can unite these often conflicting masters. For the third year, Business Marketing has selected the top media strategists in business-to-business today. These men and women represent the best in their profession, bringing to media strategy a dedication to quality and creativity.

Representing a diverse spectrum of b-to-b, from industry to high-tech, these 12 have demonstrated their vision and commitment to excellence in this increasingly competitive arena by finding creative avenues for extending their client’s message while using media that fit their objectives. They’re also injecting their jobs with humor – and a sense of fun.

And they’re doing it while still trying to get their clients the best value for their ad dollars. That can make it all the more difficult, given today’s emphasis on the bottom line. These 12 have to watch their spending while convincing the client that cheapest doesn’t always equate with best when it comes to doing things right – even though it can look that way on the surface in a cost-cutting environment. They’re also raising the quality – and the image – of business-to-business advertising, pushing it to new levels and setting standards that all marketers can look to.

The Best & Brightest Awards is not the only program pushing to raise the bar on the quality of b-to-b advertising. Another is the North American Business Press‘ Creative Excellence in Business Advertising Awards honoring the best in b-to-b advertising. In the second annual CEBA Awards competition, Sawyer Riley Compton, Atlanta, basically swept the honors, winning not only the Grand CEBA, but also the awards for single ad, spread or larger and campaign-at least three ads. Martin/Williams Advertising, Minneapolis, won for single ad-one page or less.

Without taking anything away from the fine work of these two agencies, I have to say that I don’t understand why the same finalists kept showing up. In two categories, interactive ad-Web sites or CD-ROMs and inserts-special supplements, there were no first-place winners.

I know the b-to-b world produces good, creative work. We run it each month in Copy Chasers. But there was little evidence of b-to-b diversity at the CEBAs. Where were the computer ads? How about some representation from heavy industry?

The ABP is putting a lot of effort into creating awards that recognize the best in b-to-b, and in 1998 it hopes to broaden participation in the event. So, during the next year, I urge you to take a look at what you’re doing. Are you happy with your advertising? Would you be proud to enter it to be judged with other b-to-b ads? If not, do something about it.

But if it does live up to your expectations, show your commitment both to your advertising efforts and to b-to-b creativity in general and make sure it’s entered in the 1998 CEBA competition. The ABP can only do so much; the rest is up to you, the b-to-b marketer, to raise the level of creativity and recognition of b-to-b advertising.

Finally, when it comes to recognizing exceptional work, there are two people here at Business Marketing who deserve some mention. Brian Reilly, our executive editor, and Jason Brady, who was our summer intern, created the NetMarketing 200 that we introduce in this issue.

Through months of grueling, often tedious work, they compiled lists of possible candidates and then sifted through some 600 Web sites, grading each one. They also tried to contact – through both e-mail and telephone – each of the final 200 to get more information about the sites.

The final list, which appears on Pages 18 and 19, is the result. It represents the beginning of a project that will be updated each year as marketers grow and evolve their Web efforts.

When it comes to setting the standard for b-to-b Web sites, Brian and Jason have worked hard. It’s now time for the marketers to step in and push even harder to boost the quality of the b-to-b Web presence.

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