I sometimes wonder whether ad agencies really give a shit about producing advertising that really sells.
Now that I'm firmly entrenched back in the client side after a couple of years working for small agencies, it's starting to become a lot clearer.
Here's my story: I've got 16 years of marketing experience at a high level with some of the biggest companies in the world. I love advertising and communication. I reckon I'm pretty good at what I do, and my strategic skills are one of my strengths.
So one day I decided to start my own consultancy and become a freelance planner/marketer. I'd always wanted to work as a planner on the agency side and spoke to a lot of people in the industry who assured me that the ad game was crying out for strong, strategic client side experience.
I didn't disagree.
That was two years ago. I reckon I did some great planning work (and so did my clients and the agencies who I helped win a lot of new business for). True 360 degree planning - the way the top planners and articles in B&T and AdNews talk about how it should be done. With great results for the brands I worked on.
The only 'problem' was that it was all for smaller agencies (ad/design/promo).
I thought I had the skills for a bigger agency, but none of the bigger agencies were interested in me. I got nowhere with a lot of agencies and definitely nowhere with recruiters for the ad industry.
Through my own contacts though, I got so, so close to planning roles at Y&R, DDB and JWT. Even to the point of being offered a job (which changed dynamics somewhat when they changed the rate at the last minute to a 100% bonus system based on the amount of new business I brought in. But sorry, I don't work for free).
The real irony was that for all three agencies, not one of them had the guts to call me and tell me I didn't get the job. They just crawled back under the creative rock and went quiet. That's ok, I guess...I just find it strange given that their job is to communicate.
My problem? I was seen as a client, through and through. One of those people who doesn't really appreciate the power of great creative. Someone who makes life difficult for agency people because we're so narrow minded. Someone who might even think...horror, horror....that a Brand Power ad might actually be the best advertising outcome. And even though I hate Brand Power, sometimes it probably is the best option.
Sure, I love creative work and believe in the power of a great creative idea, but it's not always the best way to sell more product. When has an agency ever recommended that the problem is not advertising, but pack graphics or PR or sampling?
Meanwhile, every planner jumping off the plane from the UK seems to have no trouble picking up a guernsey. English accents go a long way here in Sydney. Fair enough - that's my competition. That's life.
But I've seen a lot of English planners struggle with planning disciplines taught in London put against briefs from volume driven FMCG clients where the goal is to sell 4 million loaves of bread to the average aussie living in Telopea, or Bayswater, or Woolawin. As a client, I haven't got time to wordsmith 3 words in a half day session, only to see them disappear in a puff of dust at the first creative presentation.
Am I pissed off? Yeah, a little.
I can count on two fingers the amount of planners who I think have really added strategic value to my brand. And none to those who have added strategic value to my non-brand related business (eg margin improvement, NPD, trade, internal comms etc). You know....the other stuff that makes money.
Most planners have been pretty rubbish. Sorry, let me rephrase....most planners are certainly not worth the value agencies charge for them over the course of a year. Bear in mind this is my experience, along with a couple of marketing directors I've talked to as well.
So back to my original point. Sometimes I wonder whether agencies really give a shit about producing advertising that really sells.
Because if they did, they would be more open minded about bringing in people who have a true open mind about the role of advertising. They'd be open to people from client side who can add so much insight to the way clients think and operate and add value from so many perspectives.
I think agencies are scared of people who don't see absolute creative work as being the God of Brands. It seems like it would almost be too threatening to have someone with client experience in the boiler room, diluting brilliant creative work with ridiculous client side ideas and insights and suggestions designed to increase sales.
Deep down, big agencies are creatively driven, not (client) sales driven. The end goal is advertising. The means is managing the client to deliver the most creative outcome.
In client land, the end goal is sales. Advertising is one means to deliver it. And I'm not sure things are changing in any hurry.
Is this blog topic inflamatory? Probably. Is there another argument here? Most certainly.
But I haven't seen the argument made too many times (eg never) and this blog entry and a glass of wine seemed like an interesting to do this time of the night.