Monday, December 24, 2007

Essay 4886

AdPulp’s Danny G remarked on Essay 4873, making observations worth discussing further.

G wrote: “Agencies who spout off about brands using the web to have an ersatz ‘two-way dialogue’ with consumers need to wake up and realize that yes, they are brands too, and the dialogue about the agency itself is fair game.”

For the most part, today’s advertising agencies are lousy brands.

Agencies are quick to convince (accent on con) clients that the standard marketing and advertising tactics are required for successful brands. Yet the typical agency seldom self-prescribes its own advice. The better shops take a “let-the-work-speak-for-itself” approach, essentially relying on word-of-mouth. Of course, no agency would ever suggest this course of action for clients. At least not without charging them for the plan.

On rare occasions, an agency will attempt to produce its own advertising and branding campaign. The efforts usually demonstrate that in addition to being lousy brands, agencies are lousy clients. Just ask any creative team that has ever been assigned to such a task. (Note to agencies: You don’t recommend that clients keep stuff in-house, so you shouldn’t either. Doctors won’t perform surgery on themselves, the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, etc. If you want a breakthrough campaign for your shop, hire Wieden + Kennedy or Goodby, Silverstein & Partners to execute it.)

Self-promotion aside, today’s advertising agencies are lousy brands for more reasons. Moronic management, mergers and buyouts are the major culprits, and they’re often intertwined. When viewed through a branding lens, it’s easy to understand the problems.

Having morons at the helm is the equivalent of having a shitty product or service. If your product or service is inherently shitty, then your brand will ultimately stink too. No rocket science there. It’s just the way things are. To compound issues, moronic management tends to be out of touch with the current marketplace. If a brand fails to evolve with society and becomes outdated and irrelevant, well, you get the picture.

Mergers and buyouts are killing advertising agency brands. The size of the holding company is directly proportionate to the awfulness of the merging murder. Back in the day, great advertising agencies had distinct personalities and images. You’d be hard-pressed to attach positive brand characteristics to IPG, WPP, Havas, Omnicom and Publicis—or any characteristics, for that matter.

Mergers and buyouts accelerate management shifts, as leaders jockey for power positions. The result is a rollercoaster ride of altering objectives and corporate vision revisions. The latest regime promises to invent “The Agency of the Future,” despite the fact that the architects are likely old school hacks incapable of coping in the present.

Plus, mergers and buyouts lead to constant name changes, exacerbating brand fuzziness. Imagine if McDonald’s or Coca-Cola altered their labels as frequently as agencies. The new monikers sound and look bad. The reprinting for business cards and letterheads can’t be cheap.

In BDAs (George Parker’s favorite abbreviation for Big Dumb Agencies), employees aren’t even clear on their employer’s official name. Need proof? If you’re a BDA drone, sign up for LinkedIn. Every week, you’ll receive a bunch of contacts that weren’t on your original connections list. Why? Because they identified your common agency by a different name than you did. Acme. Acme Worldwide. Acme Communications. The Acme Group. Acme RSCG. A.C.M.E. Publicis Acme. AcmeFCB. Whatever.

If agency folks don’t know their company’s brand, what must the clients be thinking?

If advertising agencies fuck up their own brands, why should they be entrusted with a client’s brand?

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