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

Nursery Stories Are Killing Advertising …
August 28, 2007, 7:00 am
Filed under: Comment

So one thing I want to bitch about before I go on holiday is the lethargy of agencies.

For an industry that claims to be forward thinking, pragmatic and full of energy, momentum and ideas – I am astounded how slow many of them are to react unless …

There is a new pitch

2 A client threatens to walk

What’s even funnier is how slow so many of them are interms of looking after their own staffs needs and wants.

I think pretty much every monotonous, corporate mission statement I’ve ever read pays some pithy homage to the staff being ‘their best asset’ and yet when they actually have a chance to prove it, they are slower than a snail carrying his weekly shopping bags.

Payrises get held back …

Vacancies take an age to be filled … 

Job offers take forever to be made …

Equipment is updated at a rate where it is already obsolete …

You name it, the majority of agencies do it.

Ferrari 412 T2 formula one

Of course interms of what they ‘claim’ … you’d think you were watching a category that could take on Formula One for speed but far too often, it’s main obsession is with what has happened rather than what they can make happen.

My fave is when they come out in the press banging on about some fancy new job they’ve created – hiring someone with a title like CONTENT PLANNER, DESIGN PLANNER, DIGITAL DM STRATEGIST, INTERACTIVE CONTENT PLANNER – when underneath it all, it’s often very similar to a job someone else was doing before …

1 It became fashionable

2 A client would happily pay a premium for.

A perfect example of this is the rise of Channel and Content Planners.

Personally … and I’m sure quite a few people will disagree with me … I think they’re a load of wank.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the role I am criticising [though Content Planning does make me smile for all the wrong reasons] … it’s the fact that this was the sort of thing great Media Strategists were doing twenty years ago

I have some very talented friends who are Channel and/or Content Planners and after much interrogation, none of them has been able to satisfy me they’re doing something dramatically different to when they were a Media Strategists, Planners or Heads Of Copy.

Testing the New Photocopier

Far too often agencies talk the talk but don’t walk the walk … they’ve been banging on about media neutral ideas for decades and in the main failed miserably to make it happen.

OK … OK … not all agencies have failed and I have to acknowledge clients have played a major role in this lethargy, but it’s still sad the industry treats the creation of a video game [ie: for BK] as the second coming of communication!!!

You can bet your backside that next year they’ll be a billion entries into Cannes of Video Game solutions for clients … or environmental concepts … or Youtube only campaigns, it’s pathetic!

From a consumer perspective, trial and error hasn’t hurt Apple … exploration hasn’t destroyed Virgin … innovation is yet to undermine NIKE [if anything, it enhances their consumer appeal] and yet our industry – made up of all these supposed cutting-edge organisations – sits there waiting for someone else to make a ‘first move’ because they’re all too frightened incase it results in them being ridiculed by the industry at large.

All this results in is more HEADLINES about agencies opening on Second Life or creating a Content Division or starting an Interactive Department or investing in a new process methodology which is set to REVOLUTIONISE the advertising industry – even though the end result is the same old bland bollocks that has gone on time and time before.

Where has the ingenuity gone?

Where’s the bravery?

Where’s the experimentation?

Where’s the leadership?

And no, Kevin Roberts is not an acceptable response.

Look, I am not saying we should discard the old … far from it, there’s huge, huge, huge value in looking at the lessons of the past … and certainly not all agencies behave this way, however if the majority want industry to start valuing them again, maybe they should start to include speed, exploration and bravery back into their ‘equation’ – because if all they do is continue to look through the ‘rear view mirror’, they’re just walking steadily towards their own demise.

19 Comments so far
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This post makes me smile. It’s spot on, unfortunately.

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

at what point do you fuck off? i like this post, just wondering when you go because george has already pissed off and i want to sneak a few days while youre both away so stop being so fucking selfish and get on your plane.

Comment by andy@cynic

Dear Robert, how the devil are you? It seems you are still full of the joys of anger which is always your best state.
While it is easy to take aim at the majors, they also have thousands of people working for them who need an income each month, so in the interests of employee security alone you can understand why they choose the path of least risk.
However I do appreciate these are often the very same agencies who use the media to pronounce invention and enterprise when nothing could be further from the truth but then what do you expect, flag waving about boredom and conservatism?
I know you have a very succesful company who trades on ingenuity and intelligence but with the upmost respect, comparing an organisation of 60+ people is very different to that of an agency employing 6000+ people so I feel you have to take that into account when you go on your war paths. Despite that, I’d much rather work for cynic or the like than ever go back to the majors which is where my view hits a fatal flaw.
HHCL really does have a lot to answer for doesn’t it. 😉
Do hope you are well, all my best to everyone and I do hope to see you at some point in the next decade.

Comment by Wayne Green

As you very well know, I think that “content” is pretty fucking important; although titles like “content planner” just make me sick. But maybe my take on what this magical “content” could be is slightly different to yours – but that’s because I’ve been outside of the industry so long and you’ve been subjected to day-to-day madness for years (your jaded and I’m naive).

If I remember rightly, our very first run in was about this (some time last year) and I think at the time I was basically telling you that it was your (collective) responsibility to use the god-given chance that media production companies had – and still are giving the advertising industry by producing mind numbing shite like CSI, Big Brother and American Idol. In our first clash on this subject we got bogged down the word “entertainment”, but the potential to INSPIRE is enormous but not being taken up mainly for the reasons to describe in your post.

When you consider that the advertising industry is SUPPOSED to be a creative industry it staggers and depresses me the lack of creative thinking around this subject. Financially, content generation can offer an agency “client neutral” revenue streams where by apparent knowledge of the wants, fears, desires and needs of people can be creatively and strategically used to create products that people actually want – and inspire them in the process.

The problem is, that this requires letting go of particular day-to-day agency practise – like flogging stuff to clients and trying to win awards in Cannes.


Comment by Marcus

All true Marcus but why is it advertising agencies that should be doing that? There are other places where this should and already does happen.

Comment by John Dodds

It depends whether you see advertising as a creative medium or a selling medium I suppose.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

John, [and this isn’t intended to be flippant] because it’s there. It’s there for the taking.

Comment by Marcus

I’m with John … and Marcus … because whilst ad agencies should be the ‘home for creative thinking and development’, that shouldn’t mean they hold the rights to that – especially given the majority of the fuckers aren’t practicing it at all.

And I am not jaded, I’m frustrated – because content IS everything and while it’s nice an agency is dedicating a particular individual to ‘manage’ this specific area, it used to be something every fucker in adland cared about, not someone who is paid to be a fucking ‘editor’.

Comment by Rob

The problem for me reminds me of Rover cars.

They constantly tried to live up to this high class british image; yet they produced metros, maestros, montegos and honda rebadgings that were so boring and went against everything they claimed to stand for.

Eventually the brand and its products were so far apart that people stopped buying into it.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

No one cost cut their way to progressiveness.

[Well, no one in adland I should say!]

Comment by Rob

Are big agencies the new British Leyland?

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Now that is a quote for the front page of Campaign if I ever saw one! Genius!

Comment by Rob

I think I will post using that today!!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Don’t see strikes and Japanese imports bringing down agencies – I see Ratner’s as a better comparison than Leyland.

Comment by John

My ambition has always been to start an adland union … must get round to that one day.

Oh and John, it might not be strikes and Japanese imports but it is medocrity and management consultants, ha!

Comment by Rob

Actually, the Japanese imports is rather relevant. Rover was hurt by them because they kept looking back, and when they did look forward (SD1) they failed to it with quality. They promised quality and didnt deliver… sounds like plenty of “creative” agencies to me.

Maybe not strikes per se, but management difficulty..

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I knew that one wouldn’t fly!

Comment by John

Is that a comment about your comment or a reference to the British aerospace industry. The Rover Cars of the skies, haha!

Comment by Rob

The Rover Cars of the skies – damn you really should be in advertising!

Comment by John

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