Thursday, June 20, 2002

State of the Advertising Industry

I've been reading some articles written by the big cheeses of the ad industry for Cannes. And it's made me started to wonder. They've commented on the downward spiral of creativity in the ads. True, some of it has to do with what clients approve, and opens up the huge discussion of why clients go to "professionals" to do their advertising and then dictate what it should be...but I really think in some ways the ad biz needs a overhaul in how it does business. Letting clients mandate certain things, pick away at concepts until there is nothing left of the original "good" idea, and the such, leaves the advertising world in chaos. You wouldn't go to a car mechanic and tell them how to fix your car, so why can they get away with it in advertising? With 1000s of people wanting to do good work and get a job where they can do it, you'd think ads would be at their best. Obviously not, according to a number of the judges. Mike Hughes of The Martin Agency says, "It's been a long time since anybody showed us new ways to create advertising, the way Bernbach did in the '60s, Scali and Ally did in the '70s, Chiat did in the '80s or Wieden did in the late '80s and early '90s. To be sure, people have created some great campaigns in the past decade. But where is the transcendent work that sends the industry off in a thousand directions creating new riffs and new expressions? Those agencies actually created advertising that improved society." I think this makes it even more frustrating for those of us who are out there trying to get the job done well or even just trying to get a job.

With the state of the economy and the advertising business, creating opportunities to create new ways of marketing and advertising SHOULD be the way to go. That's what you'd think at least. When people have less money to spend on products, whatever they may be, your product or service needs to be in the forefront of the minds of the consumers. You have to be the one to get them to come to you. Advertising should be at a high. And yet, it is the time when clients become even more conservative in their efforts...creating a spiraling effect in bring the economy down as well as the creativity in advertising. Too afraid to push the envelope, they constrict and constrict the creative making it harder and harder to distinguish one ad from another. I can't even count the number of "lite" beer commericals I've seen lately that are basically the exact same premise. If budgets are tight, why waste money on creating bad advertising that doesn't work? It doesn't make sense.

But in a business where clients are bowed down to and brown noses abound, how do you go about fixing this? Clients are used to a system of tinkering and I don't see them easily giving it up. In the ONLY business in existance that I know of where company gives up time and money to create campaigns for clients on the chance that they MAY get a new account, how do you change the perception that agencies are not willing to bend over backwards for any scrap they can get? The system of pitching for new business sets up that premise that an agency is willing do to anything for business, so the client figures if they are going to pitch stuff for free, we can walk all over them. The agencies that have clients with a better understanding of the fact that they are the ones going to a professional for a service are the ones that end up with the best, award winning work, for the most part. More clients need to understand this. They need to see that the advertising industry isn't just one lump of brown nosing, arse kissing drones. Why it is that advertising feels it needs to cower before their clients, I don't know. Is it because they fear clients will think advertising unnecessary? That concept can be proven over and over again- a business will not success on word of mouth alone. The business world needs advertising for it to succeed.

The advertising industry as a whole needs to stop acting like a slave to its clients. It needs to put it's foot down. But how is this possible? The only way to go about it would be to have every agency do it at the same time or something along those give the clients no way out. Yet this is somewhat unrealistic, and I don't see it happening anytime soon. Maybe it needs to be a slow process from within...changing the way clients percieve the advertising business.


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