Clients. You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them. Increasingly, ad pros are somehow living without them, and in too many cases it’s the agency’s fault.
Kristi VandenBosch of VandenBosch Group in NYC asked when did our industry become so dishonest?
It started with the financial model: the FTE as a unit of value. We began to sell inefficiency. The only path to growth was through more people, and the only way to get more people was to convince a client their business required more people. Not better technology, or better ideas, or better results in the marketplace – just more… people. We stopped being paid for the value of our thinking – we got paid by the ton.
Then we split the creative agencies from their media partners.
Then came the emergence of the platform as enabler.
Pop, pop, pop. Three strikes and the ad industry is out.
VandenBosch has deep experience on both the client and agency side. She knows of what she speaks.
Her most recent job was as Revlon’s SVP, Global Head of the Digital Center of Excellence, charged with accelerating Revlon’s growth through the creation of an internal agency, RedHouse. Formerly, she was CEO of Publicis & Hal Riney and Publicis Modem in San Francisco and North American President of digital agency TEQUILA\.
It Takes Nine Strikes To End The Inning
VandenBosch nails three of the factors currently plaguing ad agencies and the people who work for and with them. But there’s so much more disgrace where that came from. Shall we count the error of the ad industry’s ways?
- Strike 4: Then we fired all the people over 40.
- Strike 5: Then we continued to refuse to hire people of color.
- Strike 6: Then women were sexually harassed, especially women with the best ideas.
- Strike 7: Then we gave ourselves another trophy.
- Strike 8: Then we gave ourselves another raise.
- Strike 9: Then the quants came marching in.
Wow, that list of six more strikes was much too easy to make. And the degradations don’t stop. Ad people are overworked and stressed out, which zaps a person’s creative energy and dampens their mood.
Ad people are my people, for better or worse. I sometimes attend meetings with ad people who are not there. I am sure you do too. It’s not just that people are digitally dependent and distracted, it’s worse. Lack of rest combined with unrealistic deadlines on work that couldn’t be described as “creative,” drives ad people to the edge and eventually drives them to leave the industry for greener pastures.
However Much Your Care, Care More
Hope never fully disappears, does it? Hope hides.
Is it reasonable for today’s ad pros have non-delusional reasons to be hopeful that change is coming? I think, yes.
The path back to respectability starts with humility. Ad people must admit that they don’t know it all, while at the same time, being explicit about what they do know.
At the core of the agency there is an implicit promise to care about clients and the customers they want to reach (or there needs to be). It’s a service industry that outputs advertising products.
For most of my career, the emphasis has been on the advertising outputs and what they can do for the agency. It’s embarrassing. On the other hand, when client relationships matter most, the agency will not fudge reports, pad timesheets, overbill and generally obfuscate at every turn.
When you care about the client and the client’s business, you take care of business.