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

We Live In An Upside Down World …

A while back I was interviewed by Bloomberg Business Week.

I know … what the fuck eh?

And more amazingly, it’s not the first time.

OK, so it has taken them 5 years to forget what a stupid mistake they made the first time, but they asked me what I felt was wrong with modern marketing.

I thought about it for a while.

Let’s be honest, there’s many things I could say … but after a while, I felt I had it worked out.

It’s the image at the top of this post.

Too many clients saying no to good ideas and too many agencies saying yes to bad ones.

There are many reasons for this but underpinning them all is a lack of trust and a blind belief in formats and processes.

Or said another way: Ego and confidence.

Either too much of it or not enough.

Of course, people will say adland have got what they deserved.

That they were indulgent and never cared about their clients business.

Which is – frankly – bullshit.

Not just because that abdicates any responsibility of the clients who hired the agency … gave the brief … and approved the work, but also because I’ve never known an agency who do not give a shit about their clients achieving success.

However somewhere along the line, things have changed 180 degrees and now we’re in this weird situation where everything is upside down … with the great irony being in this new world order of marketing, we’re making less work that is impacting cultures attitudes and behaviour and building fewer brands people give a shit about.

And yet despite this, both parties are carrying on, reframing the situation so they can both feel they’re doing the right thing.

It’s a bit like this scene in Spinal Tap where the bands manager attempts to reframe why they’re playing to 1500 seat theatres when on their previous tour, they were playing to 15,000 people in arenas.

Now please don’t mistake this as a ‘poor agency’ post.

Nor a ‘clients are evil’ bitchfest.

All I am saying is the best work and results always come from parties who trust each other, are open and honest with each other and want/value the same thing.

It’s truly that simple.

It’s why, for example, the Wieden and Nike relationship has not only stood the test of time, but has also consistently made great work.

That doesn’t mean there’s not debate, discussion and, at times, bloody arguments [for example the 3+ years I took the same idea into the same client every month to try and get them to say yes because I thought they were missing a massive opportunity] … but it does mean the conversations are about how to make the best work, not the easiest.

And while that is a rare relationship with a rare body of work, the principles of getting to that position are not that difficult.

However today, we seem to be seeing more and more clients choosing agencies on complicity rather than creativity. Dictating what they want and how they want it rather than identifying problems they want their agency to solve in interesting ways.

They may not realise they’re doing that, they may not want to do that … but they’re doing that, reinforced by countless ‘guru’ dot-to-dot strategies that seem designed to build the guru’s business than the clients who follow it.

What this has resulted in is an attitude where some clients think any agency who has a different – but informed – point of view is out to rip them off, which is hilarious given thinking differently is literally why you hire an agency.

The whole situation is horrible.

No one wins

No relationships gets built.

Instead we have clients using processes and procurement to dictate and control what they want and we get agencies fighting for the chance to do it, because they’ve sold the value of creativity so far down the river, that the only thing they can offer is speed.

What a waste of opportunity, potential and talent on all sides.

Thank god not everyone is like this.

Thank god there’s people, companies and agency relationships who demonstrate what you can achieve together when you trust each other. When you want the best for each other. When you are transparent and honest with each other.

Enough to say yes when it’s easier to say no.

And no, when it’s easier to say yes.

21 Comments so far
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Yes Robert. A thousand times yes.
I think part of the problem is clients and agencies assume trust will naturally occur so place their emphasis on who will charge the least or pay the most. And we have all seen what happens with that approach.

Comment by George

The spinal tap post is inspired.

Comment by George

have you not watched fucking spinal tap before?

Comment by andy@cynic

I meant the use of it in this post.

Comment by George

the picture says all you needed to say campbell. its good. then you dilute it with a million words that just keeps saying the same thing in different are an editors fucking dream. or nightmare.

Comment by andy@cynic

I consider myself their Everest.

Except no one wants to climb or conquer me.

Story of my life.

Comment by Rob

Are you admitting your head is often in the clouds?

Comment by Pete

how the fuck do you get in bloomberg campbell? dont they realise its the fucking equivalent of opening an attachment in an email from someone you dont know? the campbell virus never, ever stops annoying the fuck out of you.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hahahahaha … I’ll take that description.

Comment by Rob

take it? you are it you fuckwit.

Comment by andy@cynic

The problem with many organisations is they only empower their people to say no while too many agencies expect their people to always say yes.

Comment by Lee Hill

100%. The whole ‘service industry’ definition has got completely messed up so now people think it is to serve, rather than to make better. It’s like some think the reason we’re paid is to be the cheering crowd in the Emperor’s New Clothes. How utterly moronic.

Comment by Rob

Exactly this. It is not limited to the marketing industry either Rob. It has become an unspoken rule of organisations. Where those below are there to serve those above. No wonder corporate America loves hierarchy so much.

Comment by Pete

Seen but not heard. Like some victorian family dynamic.

Comment by DH

I hope you have copy approval over the headine or you might end up with

What’s wrong with modern marketing: Rob Campbell

Comment by John

I could live with that, especially as I see part of my job as trying to stop the bullshit rather than endorse it.

Comment by Rob

I think John meant it in a different way to the one you have articulated Robert. But excellent reframing.

Comment by George

Have you been talking to John as he just sent me an email saying the exact same thing.

Comment by Rob

Could it be upside down because you’re living on the other side of the world?

Comment by Bazza

fucking hell baz, thats fucking shit even for you.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by DH

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