is this hell? yes. this is hell.

I read the trade magazines like anyone else…and, like anyone else, they drive me absolutely up the wall. Like clockwork, five minutes after tucking in to AdWeek or AdAge I think to myself, “is this what hell is like…am in hell?” Yes.

But they are the trades so I feel like I have to read them…even though I know that I can never get that time back.

Reading the trades is as intellectually deadening as watching a fifth grader try to fake his way through an oral report on salamanders because they say the same thing over and over and over. Another article on how screwed ad agencies are? I have been reading that same article every week since I started in the business. I feel like I am taking crazy pills.

Take the recent AdWeek article about the Forrester report that says, with breathtaking boldness and originality of thought, that ad agencies as currently constituted are screwed:

Forrester Research believes today’s ad agencies are not well-structured to take on tomorrow’s marketing challenges

This sort of thinking always bothers me. Sure, agencies are far from perfect (a read of Agency Tart or Dear Jane Sample quickly torpedoes any idea that they might be), but why, exactly, would they structure themselves for tomorrow’s marketing challenges if they are working on today’s marketing challenges?

Especially if, according to the self-appointed experts, structuring for tomorrow challenges means:

To move from making messages to establishing community connections.

Community connections is one of those trendy phrases that means nothing while being over-employed by consultants and ambitious account execs who want to show that they “get it.”

Consumers are tuning out the messages the industry is predicated on producing.

Consumers have been tuning out advertising messages since they started being produced, unless there was some magical time when all ads worked and every company was successful that I missed. Right, that time never existed. That is why creativity and strategy and all that matters. Got it.

Shops need to be organized around communities, not disciplines. What it is calling “the connected agency” would not only know certain communities but also be active members of these groups.

These words mean nothing.

And this “connected agency” idea? Apparently, all agencies need to do to stay relevant is to stay connected. Take that HR and your desire to stop employees from spending time on Facebook (and the group on it I have started – the connected ad agency people group)! We are the agency of the future and we must stay connected…because we otherwise live in these huge ivory towers with no actual connection to the rest of the world. The oxygen is a little thin, but otherwise it’s great.

Pushing messages would give way to encouraging voluntary engagement, and ongoing conversations would replace time-based campaigns.

Finally some sense!

It’s just not original sense, as this sort of “get consumers to come to us and engage with the brand” thinking has been around for years now. Fallon did it with the BMW Films, Crispin Porter did it with Subservient Chicken and Chiat Day has done it with Apple and the unsolicited iPhone ads. Those are just a few examples. Of things that have already been done. So…cool idea and all Forrester, you’re just a little late to the party with it.

“I can’t say there’s an agency now that’s the agency of the future,” said Peter Kim, a Forrester Research analyst and co-author of the report.

A bold stance that points the way to the future.

“I don’t think agencies are going away,” Kim said. “They’re going to be the ones that help marketers to communities of mutual interest.”

Wait, so agencies aren’t doomed after all? Whew!

Clients are finding their agencies wanting. Forrester quotes one marketing exec calling agencies “a necessary evil,” rather than a strategic partner to grow his business. Another complains, “Most senior ad execs appear more comfortable with conventional channels, which they claim are ‘integrated’ because they have tacked on a Web site.”

Things rings true. Most senior ad execs understand how to sell, make money off of and get a free trip to Cannes with a :30 TV spot…they are resistant to change. Of course, most clients never trust their agencies, kill any idea that might really shake up their business and are as addicted to reach as any behemoth shop. The resistance to change is throughout the industry.

Not that it lets agencies off the hook.

“The first step [agencies] need to take is with digital integration,” Kim said, adding that the organization of agencies around specific skill sets is the root of their problems.

This is how you end the piece? You end with the recommendation of digital integration…is this supposed to be groundbreaking? Why is AdWeek running a re-heated version of a story that has been running for the better part of a decade?

And how does digital integration change the building of agencies around specific skill sets (and why would one want that to change – am I now to start throwing down in InDesign and writing up call notes to show how integrated I am?).

Am I crazy about how ridiculous articles like this are…especially because they are re-run every. single. week. by the trades. Is this hell?

Yes.

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2 responses to “is this hell? yes. this is hell.

  1. Hi dailybiz,

    Interesting post – thanks for sharing your thoughts. I certainly think the agency world is going to change and smart people who are in it right now are going to make it happen. I spoke to a lot of them on both agency- and client-side; the research pulls many of those thoughts together and projects forward. The idea of authentic community connection goes deeper than I think you give credit – think about the times where you’ve worked on accounts whose brand you actually use vs. don’t. From my experience, that comes from the difference in working client-side at two brands that were night and day in how closely marketing and design were tied to our products. The one with authenticity became a huge success while the other languishes in places like JCPenney and Costco.

    regards,
    Pete

  2. Amen to that. i too am heartily sick of reading “that” particular piece over and over and over again. usually written by someone who hasn’t done dick claiming to have the answer to the unknowable and the key to the future.

    the internet changed everything? really? thanks.

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