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Roberts Communications: blending human insights with high tech knowledge

Young busi­ness devel­op­ment man­agers who have grown up in the dig­i­tal age might know a good deal about the best tech­nol­o­gy for dri­ving online adver­tis­ing sales, but do they know about the unique human insights that appeal to prospec­tive cus­tomers’ heads and hearts? A Rochester agency which began life when “dig­i­tal” meant some­thing you did with your metacarpals knows a thing or three about both.

Unique human insights

Roberts Com­mu­ni­ca­tions began life in Man­hat­tan in 1971, before mov­ing upstate to Rochester and even­tu­al­ly set­tling on the High Falls site that has been its home since 1995. And for busi­ness devel­op­ment man­agers who like the notion of fus­ing high tech with human insights, the agency’s watch­word is “Cus­tomer­Think”. If that’s left our busi­ness devel­op­ment man­ag­er feel­ing as baf­fled as she is intrigued, Roberts defines it as uncov­er­ing “unique human insights” to pro­duce the adver­tis­ing mes­sages that’ll have the great­est impact because they’re based on a deep under­stand­ing of what goes on inside cus­tomers’ heads and hearts.

Essen­tial­ly, the agency directs its cre­ative juices into link­ing the right con­sumer with the right prod­uct at the right moment. As any­one who’s held media jobs in inter­net adver­tis­ing for any length of time will appre­ci­ate, that’s not as easy as it sounds: there’s a ver­i­ta­ble blitzkrieg of adver­tis­ing bom­bard­ing peo­ple all the time, night and day, day in, day out.

The agency’s CEO and Pres­i­dent, Bill Murtha, says: “It comes down to real­ly under­stand­ing the audi­ence. Busi­ness­es don’t buy stuff. Peo­ple buy stuff.”

A light touch

Roberts Com­mu­ni­ca­tions isn’t tech­nol­o­gy-shy. It’s seri­ous­ly into tar­get­ing, and uses tech to tar­get on social media and across the Web more gen­er­al­ly, but with a light and sub­tle touch.

Murtha insists that despite the pro­lif­er­a­tion of tar­get­ing tools and vehi­cles, none of it will have the desired effect unless the mes­sage the agency cre­ates is some­thing that cus­tomers are inter­est­ed in find­ing out about. He puts it like this:

“We don’t want to be creepy. No one wants to be ‘fol­lowed.’ We try not to over­load. We’re very care­ful about the dura­tions (of the ads) and the inter­vals. It’s all about your strat­e­gy that you don’t want to over­do it.”

This, he says, is “sell­ing as help­ing, as opposed to sell­ing as pushing.”

Some­times, old­er agen­cies can teach young guns some time­less truths.

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