The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Blinkered About Content …
June 27, 2007, 7:20 am
Filed under: Comment

T1 Blinker

One thing I absolutely detest is when I meet people who think a particular media channel can solve all the [business] problems in the World.

Most of them don’t acknowledge the power/value of any other medium … they just say DM / Digital / TV / Cinema / Promo / Poster / Newspaper / etc [delete where appropriate] is the answer to everything, including cancer, peace on Earth and getting laid more often.

What is really bugging me at the moment is when ad agencies go on and on and on about digital.

Don’t get me wrong, I think digital is fucking brilliant but the bit that bothers me is that the agencies rarely talk about the importance of content, they just imply that if you use digital, everything will be brilliant.

The importance of content/creativity is being more and more sidelined and so in an attempt to name and shame, I wrote this letter to Media Magazine [Asia’s Campaign]

I read Shelly Lazarus comment about User Generated Content with interest … not just because I agree this “phenomenon” is the work of the few rather than the masses… but because she said if agencies weren’t better at content than the consumer, then we’d all be out of business.

The thing is, I believe alot of people who embark on content creation ARE already better than many in adland … and if we [the marketing and advertising community] continue to pay lip-service to the importance of creativity, then we might as well pack up our bags and go home.

OK, I am being very dramatic – not to mention generalistic – and I do appreciate it is [probably] easier to create content that only has to ‘entertain’ rather than motivate people to ‘do stuff’ … however I can’t help but feel alot of the industry is out of touch given many still call the internet ‘new media’ and we continue to keep planning and creative awards as separate entities – when in reality, you shouldn’t be able to have one without the other.

Despite ever changing times, the ‘rules’ of great communication are still pretty much what they’ve always been … and yet many in our industry seem to now regard ‘where you say stuff’ as being far more important than ‘what you say’ and ‘how you say it’ . This is not to underestimate the importance or value of channel choice … far from it … but by the same token, we shouldn’t underestimate the importance and value of great creativity as well.

While user generated content may be produced by a relatively small amount of people … it’s popularity is fuelled by the masses … so I hope the industry realises we cannot treat content with such frivolity because society is indicating they won’t put up with crap ads and now have the power to not only avoid them, but show us how it should be done.

public_enemy We All Hate Rob

No doubt in the next edition I’ll be slagged off by CEO’s and Media Directors but if they read my letter carefully, they’ll see I’m not slagging them off, I’m just trying to remind people what this industry is great at – or at least used to be. 

This separation between media, planning and creativity is killing us … but given so many communication disciplines are now their own profit centres [obsessed with maximising their own profitability] … the situation is unlikely to change before it gets too late.

I can totally understand why it happened … and I can see why media companies are so happy it did [given so many were treated badly by many in the creative community] … but this practice is ultimately screwing the longterm value of our industry, and if certain individuals/disciplines continue to ignore the mutual benefit/power of working together, then our ability to reach/influence the consumer will be long gone and so will our ability to make a living.

Can you tell I’m pissed off at the moment? Ha!

23 Comments so far
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absolutely fair point. moaned on about the same thing when i talked to some of the students at vcu adcenter last year. but get ready for the backlash:)

Comment by Gareth

If Cannes did anything for you Rob, it made you angry and while I hope you have a better day than you seem to have had yesterday, this post (and your letter) is great and well overdue. Sadly I agree with Gareth that you’ll probably get a backlash, but don’t worry, any comms “expert” who feels what you say and how you say it is not as equally important as where you say it is a fake and deserves the kicking Andy will probably give them 🙂

Comment by Pete

Shelley Lazarus has shot herself in the foot. Computers are bleeding into televisions and televisions are bleeding into computers. You’d be nuts to buy shares in O&M. They’ve basically said the fire is best to paint the cave painting after the discovery of electricity.

Yes its the idea that needs illumination but where is the light coming from?

Comment by Charles Frith

the fact that the CEOs and the MDs need someone like you to highlight what everyone else in the [developed] world already knows is hilarious.

and i’ve got to agree with pete on this one. cannes has given you some energy and when the backlash comes, enjoy it. stirring the pot always creates ripples, and as far as i’m concerned, they’re important ripples to be made. [and i also hope today is better than yesterday]

Comment by lauren

Given yesterday I had a screaming match with a number of rather senior individuals of agencies, I am well up for some banter with some backward thinking adfolk. Infact, given how I am feeling today, I want to encourage it!

Comment by Rob

This is the Rob I love, now go kick some motherfucker mediocrity ass – kill, kill, kill.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Hey Rob,

I think this is a really relevant point that I have witnessed in the industry in my neck of the woods:

“This separation between media, planning and creativity is killing us … but given so many communication disciplines are now their own profit centres [obsessed with maximising their own profitability] … the situation is unlikely to change before it gets too late”.

As larger agencies sperate all areas so they can take on more clients and avoid being accused of conflicts of interest this separation is becoming more and more entrenched.

I have worked with a fantastic digital team, doing some great work, but to our key creative teams they were often seen simply as IT people, or ’emerging’ media people. If agency staff don’t realise that digital media has well and truly emerged, how will clients? Also as agencies sperate into cost centres we are moving further and further away from an integrated approach and integrated solutions.

Comment by Jade

Do agree with you Rob and share the same feeling with Jade. As an industry we all speak about integrated approach, in real we are the most fragmented industry/ bunch of folks. Media, Creative, Planning, New Business, New media, Production, Retail and Interior design, BTL and list is increasing every day. When it comes to working together to giving a concrete solution to the client, almost everytime it falls back on the shoulder of planning to show them the way. Alas planning is the only department among all of them that is not seen as a profit center therefore don’t have much power in their hands (atleast here in India). And as you rightly said Digital is the new missile that MD’s and CEO’s are armed with during and pitch presentation. Who cares about the idea.

Comment by pooR

Hello pooR, you are very lucky planning in India is not a profit centre because in many other countries it is.

Actually I shouldn’t say ‘lucky’ because planning SHOULD be paid for [and paid for well] … the issue I have is that too many agencies focus on planning because it is the only way they make decent remuneration anymore given they’ve sold the value of creativity down the river.

What this has led to is a plethora of planners who act like Management Consultants when what they should be doing is going out and understanding the needs/wants/fears of society.

For me, Management Consultants are about efficiency of business whereas planning [and creativity as a whole] is about liberation of business – however I appreciate I might be in the minority on that point of view. But then I am quite happy about that … ha!

Comment by Rob

Good point well put.

Because digital is now (or at least was a year ago) the buzzword, CEO’s pick up on it as their big profit drivers.

Whereas the case always is, as with everything else; that one channel cannot be the saviour of your brands. Its all about planning and proper creative thought.

We like angry Rob.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

The term ‘Management Consultant’ should be regarded as a swear word. I’m never, ever doing planning in agencies where they regard it as that.

And yes – you are spot on. The industry is massively, massively fragmented ago. Last summer I worked at a big ATL shop, and was asked to present to their board (along with all the rest of the grads) on how ‘Account Management, Planning and Creatives can better produce big idea’.

Shows how fucked some agencies are, if they are asking the grads to do that.

Anyway, I basically told them to stop the bastard silo culture, and have people working closely together. Not quite put like that. 😉 If stereotypes are fostered – the digital people are nerds yada yada, nobody wins.

And, guess what? They didn’t believe it happened. Nonsense. God knows I’ve heard enough people regard DM as little more than letter box dropping, TV as ‘shortsighted’ and digital as ‘banner ads’.

People are fucking stupid.

Good morning.

Comment by Will

Maybe I should stick to printing.

Comment by Marcus

I think we like angry Will too…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Oooooh I like where this is going … the anger it is raising … and Marcus, while sticking to printing might keep you immune from the frustrations of adland, it’s people like you [and Rob / Will] who can help change the way it works and as such, make it a better, more enjoyable, more effective place to work – which all means you have to get back in it for all our sakes. Or else.

Comment by Robert

User generated content should surely hint at where the next stories (be they branded or otherwise) are coming from.

It should act at some form of cultural barometer, if nothing else – and be some form of regulatory system.

I’ll be honest, I do regard as parts of adland as naughty children who put their hands in their ears and refuse to listen to the way the wind is blowing. Bloody stupid, but that seems to be the way it is.

And Rob M – the rage stems from my ongoing employment search. Not quite sure why it should rise up this morning, but hey.

Comment by Will

Too right.
One of the main reasons I want to get into adland is to be a part of better ads. But that doesnt just mean better creative ideas, it also means better planning and a better understanding of people.

I think we are getting plenty of ideas and scope for our event. We should start dicussing it in detail very soon Rob/Marcus/Lauren/Will. I keep thinking that we should ask Charlie Brooker to talk about ads at it. I think he’d be brilliant AND very provocative.

Comment by Rob Mortimer


Maybe we should all make a pact, and if we arent happier with the industry by 2009 we’ll all piss off in a big group and start something ourselves!


Comment by Rob Mortimer

I was only joking.

Comment by Marcus

You should be a writer as well as a planner/printer.


And what do you think to my idea of sorting out the event outline very soon so we can start it rolling?

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Rob M, I wanted to get into advertising to tell stories that resonated with people.

I’d like to write as well, but my creative ego is tiny when it comes to that.

Making the work work harder is what I think planning is all about. Not just sitting back and hiding in some form of planning shield, or (as Rob says), prioritising one method of communication above others. Bloody stupid.

Comment by Will

If only more agencies got that…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Rob M – yes, we need to get cracking. I was thinking about some bits and pieces this morning. I’ll put them onto paper and mail them through.

AND… I am not a planner.

Comment by Marcus

Good idea.
A week saturday we should organise an msn/skype get together to dicuss it more., sadly

Comment by Rob Mortimer

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