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

What Happens When Brands Think Their Soul Is An Unnecessary Expense …
June 30, 2014, 6:15 am
Filed under: Comment

You see that picture above?

That’s what Nickelodeon studios used to look like versus what it looks like today.

From colourful playfulness to bland corporate box.

From a place that was a magnet for kids to a place that resembles the sort of establishment parents warn their kids of going to.

OK, so that studio closed down in 2005, so the change in look is understandable, however I’ve seen far too many companies who view living their brand values and beliefs as an expense rather than an investment, which means:

1. They don’t mean what they say, they’re just saying it because it’s making them money.

2. They’re undermining their potential from the very start.

How the hell did it get to this?

Oh I know, accountants.

The people who are paid to minimise cost rather than maximise value.

The people who have been trained to ignore emotion and only focus on the rational facts.

The people who only care about Wall Street, not the people whose dollars can influence how Wall Street look at you.

Don’t get me wrong, I know money makes the World go round.

I know that you can easily spend way too much on stuff.

But when you are a brand – like Nickelodeon – whose very existence was built on their ability to represent, attract and influence a particular, hard-to-reach generation … then acting like the antithesis of your soul doesn’t seem such a smart decision.

Of course the tragedy is we live in a World where business celebrates short term gains, because no one stays around long enough for any of the long term pains.

What a mixed up World we live in, which is why we should be extra grateful for brands like GoPro, who are a culture more than just a company.

20 Comments so far
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This sounds like you’re saying all accountants are bad. I know you don’t believe that, but without financial management, the oxygen that keeps a company flowing, would stop.

What you’re talking about are the accountants who don’t understand the importance of a companies values, evaluating everything on cost rather than return.

There’s a quick test you can do to tell what is the financial focus of your company. Look up from where you sit at work and see if you are sitting in a grey cubicle or an environment that was designed to make you feel comfortable and collaborative.

Comment by Pete

Unless you work for “everything for a $1” then you can feel good your shitty cubicle is bang on brand.

Comment by DH

Of course I’m not labelling all accountants like that … and even the ones that do view the values of a company as an expense are sort-of free from my criticism given someone, somewhere must have given them that go ahead or viewpoint.

I don’t know if it’s as easy as looking at the environment you’re in to tell what sort of organisation you work for … I know many that make the place look and feel good but treat their people like crap … mainly because the aesthetic is to impress others rather than reflect values.

But I get what you means and it’s those companies that know principals will be challenged at some point and yet they will still stick by them that are the companies that build a real culture around them.

That doesn’t mean financial mismanagement, it just means knowing what you stand for and building around it rather than the other way around.

Comment by Rob

“You want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying … in sweat.”

Comment by John

This blog? You pay in shame, not sweat and the only fame you get is with the DEA.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Jesus John … even I wouldn’t go that far back on this blog. Actually I probably would, so I’ll shut up now.

Comment by Rob

Your music and fashion tastes do.

Comment by John

I bet the inside of your house looks like photo 1. I’d be disappointed if it isn’t.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Dare I ask why?

Comment by Pete

Look at what he wears.

Comment by Billy Whizz

It doesn’t that you very much Billy. Well, it doesn’t much … we have less of the mental colours but definitely as much of the mental.

Comment by Rob

Let me get this straight. You’ve written a rantfest about companies financial decisions based on a building nickelodeon moved away from 10 years ago? That’s even worse than those “before and after” photos for skin care on QVC.

Comment by DH

Errrrrm, yes.

Comment by Rob

This is why Wieden works when so many other agencies don’t. Their independence gives them power. Even if it means hiring you Rob.

“Of course the tragedy is we live in a World where business celebrates short term gains, because no one stays around long enough for any of the long term pains.”

Comment by Bazza

Yep, absolutely Baz. Our global CFO is amazing. She’s obviously focused on the financial health of the company, but she knows how the company works, what it values and needs to be the best it can be and – arguably even more importantly – the fact ‘the future” extends further than the next financial quarter.

Comment by Rob


Comment by DH


Comment by Billy Whizz

I know who pays my salary. Ha.

Comment by Rob

From my own experience, a big part of the problem is that many finance people in agencies don’t actually understand how the business works.

Often they’ve come from a different industry, with basic ‘transportable’ skills in book keeping/invoicing etc,
but no experience of how a service business differs from manufacturing. Hence the tendency to treat people like widgets (or like shit).

This is compounded when they’re physically separated from the rest of the office, so they don’t get to experience the culture that the ‘pointy end’ of the agency shares.

What’s worse, they often seem to think it’s their money just because they get to count it. And that everyone else is out to rob them every time they have to spend a bit on something.

I once had a run in with one who refused to pay the taxi expenses of some of the junior staff who had been working until the small hours on a new business pitch. I politely asked her what was the last time she had worked until that time and how did she get home then? Oh – and by the way – what was the last new business she had brought in? (The expenses were grudgingly paid).

Of course, profitability isn’t a luxury, it’s essential, but that shouldn’t permit the finance department to wage war on everybody else.

As has been pointed out, the best are those who see their job as being to support the business, rather than control it.

Comment by Ian Gee

Great points Ian … very true.

I do think the finance departments in most agencies are given a bad rap, seen as obstacles rather than liberators, but then it doesn’t help when they – as you said – make decisions based on what they think is right, without understanding how the company and industry they work in, actually works.

Mind you, some of the things we say are ‘advertising ways’ are excuses for not dealing with the real issues.

Comment by Rob

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