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


A Leopard Can’t Change It’s [Ad Wank] Spots …
April 11, 2011, 6:05 am
Filed under: Comment

It’s Monday. I’m tired and exceedingly grumpy and while that is no justification at all for what I’m about to post, the fact is it’s definitely part of the reason.

I should point out that I do not know any of the people being referred to in the article below.

I am sure they are lovely, smart, talented and genuine … and quite frankly, if someone said what I am about to say, I’d want to smash them in the face … however that aside, I believe there is a lesson to be learnt and it’s not just that I should keep my fucking opinions to myself.

OK, so an article appeared in Campaign Brief Asia where they talked about how McCann Ericsson Singapore has hired Todd Waldren as their new ECD.

As part of the piece, the magazine also featured comments from the agency CEO which had soundbites that included:

“It’s time to throw away what you thought you knew about McCann because everything has changed.”

“Together with the other members of the team in Singapore, McCann is set to make waves, providing highly creative, transformational solutions to our clients that will lead the industry.”

“Every agency talks about creativity and change, but at McCann it’s really happening.”

“… rip up the plan, start anew and maintain the positive feeling that comes with change.”

“Exciting times, so watch this space.”

OK, so it’s bloody excellent to hear someone so passionate about both his new colleagues and his agencies new energy but the thing is – and please remember I am in a pathetically petty mood so whatever I say should be taken with a large pinch of salt, which I know you always do anyway – but as much as he say’s it’s time to throw away what you thought you knew about McCann because everything has changed, the comments he makes [albeit comments I’ve taken a bit out of context] sound exactly the same as every multinational.

“Make waves”“Providing highly creative, transformational solutions to our clients” … come on, does that really give you the feeling there’s a massive shift on the way?

It’s like people who say “think outside the box” when that’s the most unoriginal way to express the desire to try new things known to man.

Yes … I’m being a petty little fuck and I’d like to publicly apologise to Ben and his team because none of them deserve this … however while I am really glad and impressed he is up for changing everything from the inside out, I suggest this attitude should also be spread to the agency lingo because to paraphrase Bill Bernbach [though I can’t find the bloody quote anymore so maybe he didn’t say it] … you can proudly pronounce you’re different from everyone else, but if you say it in the same way and in the same places as everyone else, you’re really showing you’re no different at all.

The thing is, many people in adland think the way to get back to the boardroom table is to talk like you belong at the boardroom table – but in my experience that’s not the case because what they really want to hear is how their business value can be increased.

Adland used to be hired because the people in it had interesting approaches to making companies and brands more successful and famous.

The fact they didn’t look or talk like people in the corporate World was attractive because while they were smart and knew what was going on, they weren’t inhibited by systems, processes and internal cliché.

Somewhere along the line we forgot about this.

Somewhere along the line we thought looking, sounding and acting like our clients was a good idea.

Somewhere along the line we forgot board members put more stock in what we say rather than how we say it.

Somewhere along the line – coincidentally when we ended up being a mirror image of the CEO – we lost our seat at the boardroom table.


52 Comments

Fucking A!

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

fuck me campbell, this is quite good, i like you a whole fucking lot more when youre a grumpy fuck.

taking the piss out of adland conformity and actually making a point that is fucking worthwhile rather than some pointless planning bollocks, makes it almost worthwhile visiting this pile of steaming.

heres to you having more shit mondays.

Comment by andy@cynic

I think you’re saying talk is cheap.

Comment by John

and mirroring doesnt fucking impress.

Comment by andy@cynic

Not mirroring – just trying to encourage shorter posts.

Comment by John

forget shorter, encourage no fucking posts.

Comment by andy@cynic

I think it’s more than just ‘talk being cheap’ John, it’s the manner in which agencies present themselves – a manner that is focused on resembling the client rather than actually having ideas that can help their business in ways they would never be able to come up with themselves as they don’t have the creative approach/talent/output [on a mass scale at least] nor the true understanding of what people are thinking beyond their specific category.

Not always the case – especially now – but it’s one of the main factors the industry as a whole was once so highly revered and why now, only some agencies are.

Lots of other factors – including the death of the marketing directors corporate influence and value – but I think adland contributed to that as well with it’s attempt to “be” the client rather than a objective [not objecting!] partner.

Comment by Rob

as fucking usual, someone else wrote what youre trying to say much better and much shorter. see if you can find it mr magoo.

Comment by andy@cynic

As for making companies and brands famous, I’ll just quote Bernbach at you.

“Getting a product known isn’t the answer. Getting it WANTED is the answer. Some of the best known product names have failed.”

Comment by John

thats not the one, i know the one but i cant fucking remember it. probably wasnt bernbach, probably was me, it sounds like my fucking genius.

Comment by andy@cynic

It probably was you … god, I hope it wasn’t.

It’s not that one John, it was about VW Beatle ads I think, but who the hell knows. I’ll have another look.

Comment by Rob

by the way campbell, youre wrong the ceo who says those quotes doesnt come across as passionate, just a corporate toady who needs to lower his/her fucking medication. ill be “watching this space” but not as closely as his/her penny pinching holding company, profit over quality bosses will. good fucking luck to them, theyll need it.

Comment by andy@cynic

oi campbell, what was their bullshit proprietary process called again?

Comment by andy@cynic

This one? http://bit.ly/evlw2i

Comment by Rob

thats the one. what a pile of fucking shite.

Comment by andy@cynic

Knowing your subject and being your subject are completely different things though it must be said some companies do like that. We are not one of them.

Good post Robert but I’m not sure you needed the gentlemen at McCann to make your point.

Comment by Lee Hill

but thats the best fucking bit.

Comment by andy@cynic

doesnt extend to your policy on fucking consultants though does it lee? thats not me saying it of course, you know whose fucking gob those words sprung from dont you. now about those upgrades….

Comment by andy@cynic

Bang goes the platinum FF card!

Comment by Rob

Fantastic post with the best explanation of why agencies have lost their seat at the table I’ve seen. It’s much more than just talk being cheap, it’s about a story that includes the loss of own values, ideals, strengths and skills. If we want to go down the talk is cheap avenue, we should look at how many agencies put the word “creative” in their press releases rather than their work. Really enjoyed this one.

Comment by Pete

“look at how many agencies put the word “creative” in their press releases rather than their work.” best fucking point youve made.

Comment by andy@cynic

Life is complete.

Comment by Pete

Nicely put Pete. Love that last bit.

Comment by Rafik

dont you fucking start being nice to him too rafik.

Comment by andy@cynic

I think I should read the comments in their entirety before commenting because yet again, Pete has written in 5 lines what I took 50 to say. Smug bastard.

Comment by Rob

there it is. at least you have the fucking decency to hang your fucking gob in shame.

Comment by andy@cynic

Well said Pete.

Comment by George

its not that fucking good.

Comment by andy@cynic

Just the thing to wake me up on a Monday morning.
It used to be easy to explain what I did to my mom. (Look at that tv spot, we made that!)
Nowadays I just tell her, oh, we’re doing stuff. From such nebulosity we are all attempting to create and differentiate our stars. Maybe the work comes first and the words come later.

Comment by Leigh

as much as campbell gives shit to agencies that “just make an ad” it would be quite fucking refreshing to hear one of the bastards say that is what they do and that is what they think theyre fucking great at doing.

Comment by andy@cynic

No industry – but no industry – does platitudes and meaningless abstractions like the advertising industry. Personally I lay it all at the feet of Lord Sorrell of Madison Avenue.

Comment by simon billing

i think the management consultants push the ad fuckers to the line, but for once, adland wins by a fucking nose.

Comment by andy@cynic

Good post Robert. Assuming it’s not confidential, you should write about your first meeting with Google and what Rosenberg said about agency networks, it demonstrates your point perfectly.

Comment by Bazza

It’s probably confidential but as I’ve left and Jonathan is going to be leaving – the basic upshot of it was that he said a couple of the worst/weirdest presos he’d ever seen came from ad agencies.

In short, rather than explain what they did – or how they did it – they structured their presentation to sound like they were ‘engineers’ [obviously because they thought this would help them ‘fit in’ with their audience] however by doing this, they not only completely undermined their skills and values, but – because they’re not engineers – they basically made their approach sound unappealing, ineffective and even more fucked up than it actually is.

The bit I remember most was that they found it amazing the agencies kept talking about their ‘process’ because it appeared to the audience that [1] everything went into a black box called “the creative process” and [2] despite saying they were focused on ideas that solved problems, everything the process came out with, was an ad.

To be fair, they said processes are designed to have a specific output so it’s not that surprising – but they also said that was another of the agencies mistakes, because engineers actually don’t believe in processes, they believe in frameworks because they have to come up with solutions that achieve specific – and different goals – and whilst some of that challenge may require certain processes to be adopted within it, the starting point is to define the goal, not the approach to get there.

That probably makes no sense … but if that’s the case, it’s because I am shit at explaining it rather than it not making sense.

Comment by Rob

What amazes me is th amount of work agencies put into the bit in chemistry meetings where they talk about themselves. Yes, you probably have to show relevant work and stuff, but the clue in the title us ‘chemistry’ – will we like working with you? No one likes someone who always talks about themselves. And certainly not when they bang on about their proprietary process that’s just same as the last lot they’ll have seen.
On another note, the MCanns demand chain thing is hilarious, but the Footprint isn’t a half bad tool to use when you’re starting out…….

Comment by northern

Emphasis on ‘starting out’ … not when you’re an international ad agency with a long history working with a lot of clients. Mind you, given how few agencies understand we’re here to make our clients rich and famous, maybe it’s not so stating-the-fucking-obvious as I originally thought.

As for chemistry … it’s potentially the most important factor in whether you get chosen or not … which is why I find it so funny that so many agencies make the same mistakes:

1/ Bring the CEO in for the pitch who will never be seen again. Or until the re-pitch.

2/ Spends shitloads of time talking about things like ‘agency network’ and ‘billings’ when they know any company that chooses an agency purely on that basis is going to be a company that doesn’t value anything else you do.

3/ Talk rather than listen.

4/ Talk to just the main client rather than people within the wider aspects of the company.

Add as many as you like …

Comment by Rob

It’s the industry’s fault for blowing profits on explosions of coke and cars; allowing the money men to move in and dictate the process.

I agree about the Mccann lingo though. It’s very safe creative proclamation. I can’t imagine HHCL ever used a phrase like “Providing highly creative, transformational solutions to our clients”

We need more agencies that say “We’re gonna blow your heads off”

Comment by Rob Mortimer

It’s not the industries fault for blowing cash on coke and cars, it’s the industries fault for walking away from the principals that made us valuable to business.

Comment by Rob

That too. The industry made it obvious just how profitable it was, which invited the money men in, they then lost their principles in accepting them.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

We need fewer agencies.

And they should say we exist to help you sell more stuff, now how do you want us to do that and why?

Comment by John

To be honest Doddsy, most of them do say that … the problem is when they are given a brief and suddenly every solution is an ad and effectiveness gets measured in terms of awareness rather than actual sales. To be fair, it is difficult to truly evaluate where a sale comes from – even more when a client is demanding a bunch of stuff to be added that you feel is contrary to the goal [but that’s another issue] … however my fundamental issue is that the ultimate goal should be defined and included at the beginning, not just talked about once everything has been made and put out.

Comment by Rob

how fucking depressing that theres still some serious comments going on at this time of day. normally weve killed all these off within the first fucking five minutes of it being published so i dont know whats happened on this fucking occasion but its time to pull yourfuckingselves together or youre only going to encourage the bastard.

Comment by andy@cynic

what if ad agencies never end up in the board room ever again? what if the golden days are over?

Comment by lauren

you rename yourself mccann and kill yourself.

Comment by andy@cynic

or you become their office fucking cleaner so you can say youre back in with the big boys. i know fuckers whod do that to keep sorrell happy. twats.

Comment by andy@cynic

i thought you were suggesting that i do that. to which i almost wrote ‘you fucking kill yourself, jerk’. lucky i realised my mistake 🙂

Comment by lauren

if you written that id mistake you for one of my ex blood sucking fucking wives. so we both got away by the skin of our fucking teeth.

Comment by andy@cynic

An another note, would you believe I’ve been stand-in account director for two weeks while my partner in crime has been on paternity leave? Even more incroyable than the fact they trusted me in the first place is that I haven’t lost millions, I got a team to a meeting without getting lost and I even wrote a contact report without a spellingh mistake, not one!
And you know what my reward is? I get to hold the fort for three more days while the sly bastard goes to test drive souped up cars at the Nurbirgring – “You’ve got your head in all of this Andrew, so perhaps you should stay”

I am not happy, oh no, not happy at all.

Comment by Northern

your account director is a better fucking strategist than the lot of you fuckers put together.

paternity leave. fucking paternity leave. i hope thats code for fleecing the company out of more paid fucking holiday than him really playing mr fucking mom. what next, sweeping the fucking floor and changing the pissing sheets?

if you dont lose millions to teach the sly bastard a lesson, youre part of the fucking problem, not the solution.

Comment by andy@cynic

did you deliberately spell “spelling” wrong? if you did that was almost fucking funny. if you didnt that was fucking hilarious.

Comment by andy@cynic

What do you think?
And you’re not a New Man are you?

Comment by Northern

im retrosexual and fuckin proud.

Comment by andy@cynic




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