Advertising a professional service company is a challenge for ad agencies. First, the subject is not all that interesting, except maybe to the people who work there, their families, and their clients. And second, the differences from one company to another are minute. What you can say about one CPA or law firm is pretty much the same as another. You can’t advertise a firm as doing something better, the way Tide claims to clean better or Crest to whiten teeth better.
What can marketers do when they can’t make a claim that they are better? Why, write a jingle, like Coke or Pepsi of course. However, professional service companies have to maintain some gravitas. Schmaltz and accountants would be like wearing shorts and flip-flops to a client meeting.
We’re presenting some analysis of two current accounting firm ad campaigns, starting with BDO and tackling Grant Thornton this afternoon.
Analysis and videos, after the jump
The solution is to differentiate yourself not by what you say but through the tone of your advertising. And the tone of the BDO’s advertising is deadly, almost literally. It is dark, and cold, and depressing. And it doesn’t work because it takes itself too seriously. The conversations are artificial, and the situations forced.
In the following commercial, as two executives exit an unidentified intuitional-looking edifice, one person says to the other “Reilly hit the roof” about the need to restate. We never find out who “Reilly” is, but are reassured that “the partners are on it”, suggesting that BDO will not send in the juniors to fix the problem.
This second commercial deals with the switch from GAAP to IFRS. Why is BDO best suited to handling it? According to the commercial because of its global resources and because “it’s complicated.” Oh? Weak, pretty generic, arguments.
The best asset BDO has is it tagline, “People who know, know BDO”. That could have been the idea for a very nice commercial, maybe using real customers, but BDO did not capitalize on it.
Avi Dan is President & CEO of Avidan Strategies, a New York based consultancy specialized in advising professional service companies on marketing and business development. Mr. Dan was previously a board member with two leading advertising agencies and managed another.