It’s too by the book.
I mean if what I witnessed last week is any indication, the ad industry is more reluctant than ever to adapt to the new communications landscape. Maybe more so than PR, which has plenty of issues of its own.
I was slightly out of my element to be seated around a board table with senior ad creatives and suits – the leaders! – talking about one of Canada's successful college ad programs and how it could reposition itself and update its offerings. Aside from me, there was only one other PR person in the room.
To say I was taken aback by what I heard is an understatement. I could feel my anger and frustration welling up. Were those strains of Fiddler on the Roof’s Tradition playing in the background? I probably put on even a bigger event smile to hide my reaction and maintain a semblance of an open mind.
The ad industry, as represented in the gathering, appeared to be inflexible and completely wedded to the past. At first I thought they’re watching too much Mad Men, but then I realized if they are, they’re not taking the essence of the stories to heart.
Here are three examples:
It was disheartening to see the slavish devotion to the past – especially since, as we all know, we’re living through a time of rule-breaking changes.
I certainly know a number of advertising innovators, pushing the boundaries, but what I saw tells me that as in PR, too many ad people are still hanging on a bit too tightly to what they've got.
Coming away from the session made me more convinced than ever that there’s room for a new type of agency that integrates earned, paid and owned media, tells stories and has fewer preconceived notions of doing everything by the book.
I’m interested to hear your take.
Of all the "silos" in the marketing realm, traditional ad agencies do seem to be hanging on the old models the most. Perhaps it was very lucrative for them. I've never really understood drawing a line between creatives and suits, especially in an agency setting. Everyone has their area of expertise but I really don't see how anyone can be successful today if they don't have a basic understanding of business and profitability. I'm finding less and less potential clients and employers are asking for traditional portfolios these days and why should they? There is fresh content on my blog every week, written by me, in my style, from my point of view. No one has edited it and it hasn't been shaped to fit the needs of any client. If someone wanted to hire me to write for them, my blog is a far better indicator of my abilities than a 4-year-old news release that a client "revised". Rather than maintaining a portfolio of paid creative work, it seems all of us in the marketing world should be creating our own content and using that as a showcase.
Thanks @TorontoLouise. Great point about creating your own content - I'd much rather read a blog and get to know a person through their online footprint than a static portfolio. There's an opportunity for anyone entering the workplace to build relationships with potential employers before you meet them in person. In addition to talent (which is always important) I also want to know a person can listen and learn - and is committed to what they do. That doesn't show up in a book.
As I read this, I was reminded of the development firm we hired to create Spin Sucks Pro. I would ask them to do things and they'd tell me it couldn't be done. To which I'd almost always respond, "But I do it on the *free* blog every day." And then they'd have some excuse as to why their content management system was better than WordPress. It angered me so much I eventually fired them. This is going to be a common story as early as next year. I predict companies will begin firing agencies who don't take your advice and join the 21st freaking century.
i'm happy to say that, as a 2yr advertising veteran, i've seen that all three of the stereotypes in the post are not always true. from the ECD with an MBA to the CDs who worry about freelancing margins. From the Snr Art Director who builds apps and prototypes to the teams that bring tech solutions to their ideas. I can't comment on recruiting creatives but i do know that we look for talent in all mediums. one of the reasons I joined an ad agency was that i wasn't going to have to wear a million hats as you do in PR - from the copywriter to the CD to the strategist to the producer to the finance guy, i had to do them all and now there are specific people for those roles...specialisation over generalisation. it may mean that some jobs or tasks take longer because of all the different players who need to touch it, but it does ensure that the output is generally superb (in our agency) which means the client's business reaps the benefit of superior results. ed
Thanks for your perspective @edlee. I'm glad that, as someone in the inside, you see another perspective at your agency. Sadly, that group seems representative of the larger industry - and by that I mean advertising and PR. I'd like to talk to you more about the generalist vs specialist approaches. Maybe over lunch?
Martin - as much as it pains me to say this your story doesn't surprise me. I would *think* that after several years of fundamental industry disruption that there would be at least an acknowledgement that perhaps its time to do things differently. One of my favourite quotes that I can't seem to find the attribution for is "If you want to start doing something new, you must stop doing something old." Ad industry, I'm looking at you!