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

The Ego & Arrogance Of Adland …
February 9, 2012, 6:20 am
Filed under: Comment

Advertising is a wonderfully powerful and influential discipline.

It can make amazing things happen.

It can engage, involve and change the actions, behaviours and opinions of millions of people all at the same time.


But the thing is, advertising’s effectiveness can only truly be evaluated when it appreciates and involves a whole host of other disciplines … from sales and distribution through to retail and product development.

Now this is nothing new – nothing new at all – but I still am shocked and appalled how few people in adland accept that, let alone appreciate it.

I cannot tell you how many meetings I’ve been in over the years where adfolk have talked as if they – and they alone – can change the World by the power of what they do.

It might be a bit better if they were at least open to other disciplines within the advertising community, but no.

You get direct marketing people who think all a client needs is direct marketing.

Digital people who think all a client needs is digital.

Creative people who think all a client needs is a beautiful 30″ ad and double page spread. Shot in Paris.

Media people who think all a client needs is a good media plan – which more often than not, is as similar looking to the media plans they used to churn out before digital was even a twinkle in the eye of Microsoft, let alone Google.

But frankly, that is not good enough.

Advertising’s power comes when it works WITH – not against – other specialities and many of those are outside of traditional marketing channels.

Understanding the role distribution has on a result is often ignored or arrogantly dismissed.

Appreciating how sales teams need to ‘sell in’ to retailers is too often regarded as ‘not their issue’.

Looking at how people buy – let alone when – is viewed as ‘below the line’ stuff.

Rubbish … rubbish … rubbish.

Apart from the fact these should be basic pillars of the process, the creative opportunity that stems from understanding and respecting these people/disciplines/circumstances and situations is unbelievable.

When we had cynic, we had some of the best case studies an agency could ever wish for … stuff that showed our commercial effectiveness through imaginative approaches … and literally, 80% of these had nothing to do with a traditional ads whatsoever.

We used to love ending our pitch by saying,

“Lot’s of agencies claim they solve business problems with a media neutral approach, but we think we are the only ones that can consistently prove it”.

And it worked. A lot.

At least with the clients who weren’t tied to traditional approaches because their remuneration model could only accept that.

[This ‘pitch’ changed when we started Sunshine and the wonderful Lee @ Virgin said, “media neutral is still media, I want things more independent than that”. Top point]

Look, it’s not just adlands fault, there are – amazingly – many marketers who either ignore the needs of their wider corporation or take so many of their points on, that they can’t offer a clear and consise objective for the goal that is required … however given adland is struggling to maintain it’s value and relevance, blindly ignoring the factors that can literally help us be successful [and more importantly, prove it] seems sheer utter madness.

Then again, it could be because when things go right, adland hates to share the credit and is only programmed to ever share the blame.

So many people talk about wanting opportunities and challenges that really push their creative intelligence and skills and then expect them to be handed to them on a plate.

That doesn’t happen … you have to go and find it and create it … which is why the sooner we realise the benefits of appreciating, understanding and collaborating with people and skill sets that go beyond the closed-off bubble of adland, the sooner we might get back to where we belong.

32 Comments so far
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Fantastic post Robert. The discipline myopia you talk about is not limited purely to adland but it’s very pronounced. This is your generalists vs specialists speech all over again isn’t it.

How do you think it can be changed?

Is it ability, training or a need to change remuneration models and if the latter, do agencies even want to do that?

It’s a great post Robert and a great reminder to think bigger and broader.

Comment by Pete

A major problem with the advertising industry is they innovate their job titles, not their function or approach.

Comment by George

Look at George being all fancypants with his comment. Bloody good point though.

I do think the remuneration model is a major factor in keeping agencies – whatever discipline – tied to a very singular approach and appreciation. At the end of the day, the attitude appears to be, “we might not be making as much money as we like, but we’re not going to risk making less by changing how we charge for what we do.”

In other words, for all the posturing and complaining that goes on, adland seems of the belief that it’s better the devil you know than trying to evolve the model to reflect the times … though some clients want to evolve for ego reasons more than effectiveness, but that’s a post for another day.

Comment by Rob

The blogosphere rejoices.

Comment by John


Comment by andy@cynic

Wait until marketing departments start focusing on achieveing efficiencies through their retail practices and partners. Media departments are going to implode.

Comment by Pete

fuck me im going to answer semi seriously.

youre fucking right pete. media agencies walk around like theyre big fucking swinging dicks, getting more and more confident and attempting to stray into creative development when its all bollocks.

theyre just as conservative as they say creative agencies are and rely on justifying themselves by ad deployment stats rather than true fucking effectiveness.

the fuckers are in for a hard fucking wake up call when below the line bastards start moving from pure in store to a broader media offering and then the fun will really start and they can see what happens when you dont play nicely with others.

personally i hope the fuckers burn.

Comment by andy@cynic

of course it might help if clients stopped making their penny pinching choices on media efficiency and more on overall fucking effectiveness.

Comment by andy@cynic

have i just answered pete seriously?

what the fucking fuck?!

Comment by andy@cynic

Are you OK?

I’m shocked and honored at the same time.

Comment by Pete

consider it your birthday present. im all give, give, fucking give.

Comment by andy@cynic

Who are you and what have you done with Andy?

Comment by Rob

hes in hospital having all the planning bullshit hes accidentally consumed being pumped out of his stomach.

and hes sending you the fucking bill.

Comment by andy@cynic

I read stuff like this and I miss cynic.

Not the people, just the place.

Comment by DH

blame fucking campbell. it was all his fucking fault. as fucking usual.

Comment by andy@cynic

you mean you miss the fucking money more like.

Comment by andy@cynic

to your last fucking paragraph campbell. if creative agencies wanted to be more creative they should ban youtube in the office. if media fuckers wanted to get more interesting they should ban the use of out of date data that’s compiled by algorithm not fucking fact, if dm agencies want to be effective they should stop talking about being the only media with bullshit results and if digital fuckers want to be more fucking wise they should get out from behind the fucking screen.

or they could all meet and work together.

Comment by andy@cynic

Silos exist because people believe (with some justification) that they’re valued on the basis of what they profess to know rather than how they think.

That’s what has to change.

Comment by John

youre like a consultant doddsy. you say what every other fucker says but with the words mixed around, pronounce yourself a fucking genius and send a motherfucking big invoice. its not a criticism, its fucking awe.

Comment by andy@cynic

You say the sweetest things.

Unlike Campbell and his ad buddies, I don’t get to charge by the word/impression.

Comment by John

Unfortunately, I’m only like a consultant and therefore can’t send big invoices.

Comment by John

You think I can charge for this John? That’s the nicest misguided and probably unintentional compliment I’ve ever had.

Comment by Rob

Well, how come we all feel like we’re paying when we read this stuff?

Comment by John

with our fucking souls and sanity doddsy.

Comment by andy@cynic

Great Post!

Often conceit and fear of work keeps innovation back in advertising. Well roundedness should be valued. Often agencies say they value a diversity of experience, but they would prefer that experience to be limited to another agency as similar as possible to theirs. Ivory Tower business. People who are afraid to get their hands dirty. There is a disconnect between what people say they value and what they are man enough to embrace outside their comfort zone! People who work on auto accounts and claim ultimate insights but have never worked a day in a showroom in their life. This attitude is changing but very slowly. Fortunately the pace of the world is outpacing these people abilities to construct new walls of bullshit. I thoroughly enjoy your blog by the way.

Steve Bayley

Comment by Steve Bayley

Hi Steve, thanks for popping by and the misguided compliment. I genuinely believe one of the issues – at least from the agency perspective – is a lack of genuine training for their staff.

Most companies prefer to teach their employees a singular process or a proprietary tool approach rather than more rounded [& grounded] approaches and philosophies which include objective and critical thinking.

Some do … but then some actually want to earn money as a byproduct of what they do rather than the focus.

Comment by Rob

Great post Rob. I think at times, clients like to put their agencies in ‘buckets’ but its up to us adland to work together across disciplines and take groundbreaking solutions to our clients. Not only will they then listen, it certainly makes what we do fucking loads more fun.

Comment by Nath

Hi Nath – nice to have you pop by. You’re right, clients do like to put agencies in buckets, but it could be argued agencies like to put clients in buckets too … it’s just their buckets are about the work they think they want rather than answering the business issue they need.


I still think one of the issues is that marketing directors have lost their importance within the company hierarchy [not all, but some] so instead of being viewed as an instigator of action, their treated like a producer of corporate ego or sales department requirements.

Comment by Rob

Jesus, Rob. You really do love the industry, don’t you?

Comment by Marcus

The thing is Marcus, I do … it’s what we’re doing to ourselves and becoming that bothers me.

Comment by Rob

Great read Rob. I often wonder where my career would be if you guys had not trained me first. Not at Apple that’s for sure. Worth every day of pain, humiliation and madness.

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