Let's put down our sharpies, stop the invoice presses, and take a break from milkin' the purple money cow to think for a minute or two about our beloved industry...advertising.
If the big advertising conglomerates (WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, IPG, etc.) can be considered the agency of record (AOR) for the advertising industry then I think we as a group should conduct a review for another AOR. What the heck have they been doing for the past five years? Hurting the ad business and jamming up the wheels of industry in general, that's what. That and kissing ass at Cannes.
If you're to follow the budgets, you'd have to say that we're headed to a more integrated, interactive, and event-driven world. But if you look at the way that big agencies work and how big clients do business with them, you''ll see that the main thing that's changed in the last five years is the rhetoric. They use words like "360 degrees", "total branding", and "integrated multi-media campaigns" - but it's all just fluff. They still don't know how it works (or how it could work) and they don't realize that they're all just trying coming up with their own cutsey way to own the reality of advertising today. It's like calling toilet paper a break-through multi-fiber technology that cleans while it softens. Or trying to pretend that you invented the Internet.
There are six different ways that major agencies and clients are failing to grasp the advertising business:
1) LOOK! NO MORE VACCUM!: Back in the days of yore, you'd just send a :30 spot out, see what happens to sales, and make up some pretend corrolation that allowed everyone to keep their jobs. But today there are two new sheriffs in town and they're called Targetting and Tracking. Now we can isolate exactly who we want to communicate with and then see exactly how our ad performed. Not only can we track surface metrics like click-trhough and open rates, oh no. We can measure the conversions daddy-o. That's right, we're talking RO to the freakin' I. That means that clients nowadays can hold agencies directly accountable for the results of the advertising. And since clients and agencies fail to understand the next five points, their ROI has been, shall we say, shitty.
2) MORE OF THE WORK SHOULD BE MONETIZABLE: While more budgets move toward the Web, interactive is somehow starving for resources. Agencies haven't created the right infrasturcutre, haven't "educated" the clients, haven't staffed up appropriately, and haven't funded interactive to the degree that they should. After all, there's more to it than a :60 radio spot. Check this out: we've added a step for analysis of results, a step for optimization of campaigns, and yet another step for maintenance and updates of existing online capaigns. Half the time that means that completed work has to go back to the creatives for revisions. All this takes more time than agencies are used to arguing for and more resources than they're used to paying for.
3) SITUATION NORMAL, NOT PLAYING NICE: It used to be that the level of coordination and collaboration between a client's disperate agencies was voluntary (though
highly encouraged and regularly promised) and therefore not so good.
Now it's baked right in to the process and painfully obvious if it
doesn't go right. For this to go right it takes more resources and some kind of incentive for the agencies not to compete. Because that's usually what they do. They use the opportunity to compete, back-bite, and finger point (let's face it, their stronger talents) because the new agency always wants the whole pie and the old agency is bitter that they had to give up the (fat and growing) interactive slice. Lordy lordy. What to do?
4) ENTIRELY NEW PROCESSES AND TALENT POOL: Flash guys, web developers, User Interface Designers, Information Designers...it's all just so baffling for big agency leaders (and just when the were figuring out what Henry and Flame were). They've added a completely new production process and, in many cases, in-sourced the whole darned thing. That requires several new breeds of employee and a level of expertise that most agency and client heads lack completely. Furthermore, shock horror, we're not the only industry that employs this new breed of employee. In fact, when it comes to this talent, agencies don't pay that well. Therefore, the best talent can make a lot more money in gaming, web design, interactive entertainment, or freelancing completely. There is just no shortage of opportunities for them.
5) CREATIVES HAVE TO DO MATH?: Again, it ain't no TV ad. Say I have 47 banners to write by next Friday. Some of those banners are 12K, some are 30K, some are 50K, some are 100K. Some allow uninitaiated audio, some don't. Some allow you to stream more action (extra K!) after the user initiates, but most don't. Some allow Flash and some don't. One's a PointRoll unit with expando capability combined with snapback and rollover re-expand. Some are the size of my thumb, others are the size of my fist, and still others are twice the size of my outstreached hand. One of them is a static 50 pixel postage stamp. It's enough to make a copywriter go wee-wee-wee all the way home. It's about the same amount of work as writing and producing, say, four :30 TV spots. But it's infinately more complex - especially if you want to make your concept work across all units. Add on top of this that a lot of media folks don't know the right questions to ask to get the right info to the creatives (which steals time away from creatives in the end). The burden for all of this ultimately falls on the creatives - not the right team to be figuring that out AT ALL.
6) LESS CLARITY IN THE REQUESTS: Clients out there understand the interactive space far less well than they do traditional advertising and big agencies are totally ill-equipped to educate them. Therefore, as the work gets more complicated, the direction gets more vague. Clients and agencies both are behind on industry trends and technology innovations, they are behind on understanding all the ways in which something can be tracked and optimized, and they are behind on the best ways to spend their money to optimize their sales. Yet clients rely on their big, fat, interactive-as-a-second-language agencies to be their guide - creating a visually-impaired-leading-the-blind dynamic. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don't.
Finally all this means that advertising today not only requires a bigger investment and more resources, but a completely different approach. But big agencies are unable to justify it because they don't fully understand it. So the whole thing is being swept under the rug. I mean, it's just a few fucking banners, right?