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

You Don’t Get What You Pay For …
June 3, 2009, 6:47 am
Filed under: Comment

They’re Not Even Golden!

We all know times are tough … we all know everyone is having to look after the pennies more than before … but when did adland become a charity?

I am getting increasingly alarmed at how many big agencies are lowering their pants in a bid to secure any business that is up for pitch.

I’m not talking about fee reductions of 5 … 10 … 15% … I’m talking about taking on the business without a hope in hell of making a profit.

Why would they do this? Well it tends to be for 2 reasons …

1/ With the size of the companies in question, they think turnover is better than nothing.

2/ They believe when times improve, they’re in prime position to get their unfair share.

Now I don’t know if either of these outcomes is true, because in my experience once you sell low, the only way tends to be even lower … not only that, but one of my mentors told me that in business, turnover is vanity profit is sanity … so to me, the approach adopted by many of the big networks to be seems quite anti-successful-business to say the least.

In a perfect World, I’d try and get all the smaller agencies to come together and form a class action against multinationals who do this sort of thing, under the guise of it being ‘uncompetitive behaviour’ … but given the law tends to favour the side who has the money, I don’t fancy the idea of living in a bus shelter for the rest of my life just to make a point that, in the big scheme of things, will have no positive effect whatsoever.

However there is something that is putting the lazy multinationals in their place …

Whilst everyone is looking for more ‘value’ from their business relationships, the economic crisis means there is an increasing number of clients who are after more pragmatic responses to their business problems/goals, not just the usual cheap brainwashing strategies favoured by agencies who number their employees in the thousands.

Of course these companies are still in the minority but when brands like Google, Coke, Singapore Tourism, Unilever and Microsoft have started to seek out smaller, more hungry, less mono-process driven agencies to drive their business forward, you know that as much as price is important, so is the quest to develop ideas that can really drive longer-term growth and value.

Jesus, I sound like I work at Landor with that last sentence … hang on …


That’s better, must have been a management consultant bug.

Now where was I?

Oh yeah …

As I mentioned, the big brands that are engaging the smaller agencies are still in the minority … and even then, quite a few still expect champagne ideas at beer prices … however I think it’s a positive step, not just because it means quality is starting to be really valued again, but because the share-holders of companies like WPP, Omnicom etc will start asking why their ‘blue chip’ investments are missing out on opportunities to work with big spending organisations and that could result [note: I said ‘could result’] in forcing the advertising giants to start releasing the shackles off their many talented people, which inturn could start helping the whole industry become more pragmatic, interesting and valuable again.

Of course it might not happen … especially when so many brands still treat their agencies as over-priced scum and view working with them as a daily battle, of which being petty and penny pinching is the ultimate achievement.

I remember a client once told us they wanted us to reduce our already VERY competitive monthly remuneration by 60%.

When I said I’d be happy to do it if they let us buy all their products at the same level of discount, they looked at me as if I was mad.

I admit it would have probably been wiser had I not said, “You started it” but I hate how some companies act as if it’s a gift to even be allowed in their shadow, let alone get paid for making them shitloads more cash.

Oh, and for the record, we did lose the business … another agency DID agree to their vastly reduced remuneration package … and they did see double digit sales decline … however as they have asked us to start working with them again, I won’t fuck it all up by naming and shaming them. Yet. Ha!

The wonderful Chris Jaques told me a story of an agency he once worked at that was losing so much money on clients, they tried to register the agency as a charity to get tax breaks – genius – however whilst one persons version of ‘fair’ is anothers ‘rip off’ I do think the below video does a good job of explaining why we’re experiencing the age of marketing devolution …

You pay peanuts or you respect nothing and no one … you get apathy … and whilst money makes the World go round, keeping your agency people enthused, passionate and excited can make a big difference so why certain companies think they’ll still get good ideas/ads when they act in a manner that would make Pol Pot jealous, is beyond me.

16 Comments so far
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good post campbell, nice to see your blood pressure rise.

theres a whole host of clients taking the fucking piss but agencies did the same to them for 40 fucking years so can you blame them?

a little perhaps but the average brand manager is too inexperienced to know better (or thats all they fucking know) but the majority of the blame should be thrown at mr network ceo who now makes more money from complicating and extending the fucking ad process than for anything to do with creativity. its just like your fucking peeve that too many clients care about the fucking process than what comes out of it. this shift in attitude didnt come overnight it took years to slowly morph into this ball and fucking chain but the men at the top table still fail to see the legacy theyve created even if a few clients are doing their best to speed up its journey to total shitsville.

fucking love jaques charity registration. evil genius.

back to normal with your scraping the fucking bottom of the fucking pit post quality tomorrow i presume? 2 days of semi interesting shit is enough, you dont want to strain yourself.

Comment by andy@cynic

Competing on price means you have nothing else you value on which to compete. It’s a soul-less, destructive game. Count me out.

Comment by John

ive watched that clip and i think its important to remember everyone is getting shit from someone, its just adland is near the bottom of the industry chocolate shit fountain

Comment by andy@cynic

I’ve seen better acting in porn movies and I’ve watched a few.

Comment by Billy Whizz

But they beat Keanu.

Comment by Billy Whizz

To make the clip completely accurate, shouldn’t the diner have told the chef how to make the meal? Just proving to George I’ve been listening.

Comment by Lee Hill

George has brainwashed you well! And just in time for contract review 🙂

Comment by Rob

Shouldn’t the diner have grown the food, set up the restaurant and invented fire?

Comment by John

ace vid. although makes me feel a little ill with guilt at the moment.
i’m having to ask a lot of people to do stuff for free at the moment, ‘cos i just don’t got the money to make the work without it. looks like i’ve got some soul-searching to do. 🙁

Comment by lauren

having a little money so you cant do stuff without help is a fuckload different from having shitloads of cash and still expecting freebies because you want to protect your big fucking bonus at any fucking price, so stop being so fucking nice lauren and demand, demand, demand.

just not from us. 🙂

and ill remind lee of his comment next time he says ‘i think it would look better if you changed the style of fullstop in the bodycopy’

stop trying to hoodwink the gullible into thinking youre the most accomodating client in the world or ill get george on you. again.

Comment by andy@cynic

i’m not being fucking nice, andy.

it is actually the same thing – not valuing something enough to pay its rightful cost. whether you got a little or a lot, doesn’t matter – principle still sticks. in fact, more so ‘cos bad habits are hard to kick.

if i make sure that, as a little fish, i’m ‘behaving’, then, when i become a huge, ginormous, famous fish (or shark in formaldehyde), then i abide by the same principle and there’s even more to go around.

Comment by lauren

so we are back to changing education, training and hiring practices.

or venture capital/hegde fund constructs for agencies. never have there been more start ups out there..or break off of larger companies into smaller ones..

if you gonna work at zero immediate profit, work for equity instead.

anything worth doing, is worth owning

Comment by niko

alright lauren it is the same when you look at it in fucking black and white so youre a tightfisted bitch. better?

and being good when youre starting out doesnt mean youll be good when you get big. just ask jesus.

i still think you rock despite your corporate free loading ways 🙂

Comment by andy@cynic

that last para was at lauren not jesus just to stop any fucking confusion

Comment by andy@cynic

No offence taken Andy, I got you.

I always have…

Comment by Jesus

you fucking perv but if you can make me some wine from some water ive got in the fridge well be friends again.

Comment by andy@cynic

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