Thursday, June 4, 2009

The things you should know about advertising agencies... even yours

In a recent post on Advertising Age named "Agencies Should Be Defined by What They Know, Not What They Make", Phil Johnson re-opens an old debate about the issues the advertising world is facing and the true value agencies can bring.

"At their best, advertising agencies grasp the magic of how people communicate with each other. At their best, agencies operate on the front lines of the communications world and harness the forces of culture and society to help their clients influence perceptions and behaviors. At their best, agencies lead their clients through changes in communications technologies, figuring out the most appropriate marketing strategies.

At their worst, agencies get fixated on creating stuff, whether it is an ad, a website or a Twitter feed.

When this happens, clients usually get copycat campaigns that don't connect with the most important communication innovations of the day. Besides turning advertising into a commodity with commodity pricing, this focus on the output also leads to a lot of artificial distinctions between traditional advertising, digital agencies and everything in between. Agencies become defined by what they make instead of by the truths they know. "

It's funny how it seems to be a consensus among the industry. I hate to admit it because I love the advertising world but even Paul Arden, probably among the most prolific creative director England ever came up with agrees. In one of his book, Arden writes: "Creative people in order to justify their salary, they need to be seen to have clever ideas. In their need to prove their worth, creative people often produce work which on the surface appear to be clever but with little substance. ...Never put cleverness in front of your communication.

I was always the one saying do not try to win awards. Like Charles Yves said, awards are no more than the badge of mediocrity. Awards are judges in committee, by consensus of what is in fashion. Most advertising people will tell you 90% of advertising inspiration comes from other advertising. You'll see the same books in every advertising agency... Too many times creative are just looking for something new to copy."

Even with that being said, there's light at the end of the tunnel. Johnson concludes his post by sharing his vision of what advertising should be which I couldn't agree more with, as a lot of my pals in the business: "My conviction is that advertising agencies should become a community full of intellectually curious people. The more social and intellectual and technical diversity we can cultivate the better. I think that agencies should reflect and act on the important events and trends of the day. Clients should feel compelled to work with a given agency because they hold the keys to the mysteries of how people communicate with each other. Agencies should be valued for their ability to open the door to the world in which our clients want to engage. Agencies that deliver on that promise will always be relevant."

In my next article, I will educate you on evaluating the creative work you get.

No comments: