Monday, October 16, 2006

Advertising agencies are hypocrites

Did the above statement get your attention, because it sure got mine when my colleague Dawn told me an ad agency boss in Singapore said it.

Dawn told me what he said months ago but the topic came up again recently while we were having tea with Eye Corp’s Raju Bahkta.

Let us ask this: how many ads for advertising agencies have you seen in the past six months? None?

We discussed how many agencies refuse to buy advertising, even though they make a business out of telling their clients advertising is good.

Some reasons (excuses) for not advertising include: no budget, no artwork, no time.

Could a reason for the lack of budget be because agencies spend everything submitting award entries, and then buy a gazillion tables at such shows?

Maybe the lack of artwork is a better excuse. I guess if I were a creative person I’d never be able to create something that represents me perfectly enough.

No time is just a cute one.

I respect that one honest soul who said his is a hypocritical business.

But I’m sure some other agency practitioners do not agree with the statement.

I’d like to hear what you have to say.


THC said...

Why would you want to advertise when the best window display of any agency's creativity and talent is the client's work that is being advertised everywhere anyway?

Why spend valuable time on trying to blow your own trumpet when our job is to blow our client's trumpet. Yes, awards shows are the only opportunity to blow both trumpets, agency and client and reward ourselves with a great night at a great table, with great company.

These comments could only come from a media executive, and as an industry "insider", should know better.

So yes, we may be hyprocrites, but not because we don't buy media to advertise. We have better things to do such as creating great work for clients.

oldPRhand said...

Maybe you should be saying PR professionals are hypocrites instead. Hands up folks who have had to work with Jekyll and Hyde types of PR Managers/Directors.

One moment, everything is sweet and comin' up daisies in front of the media but once the door is closed, the swearing and abusing of the hapless subordinates begins.


EEF said...

I will revert thc's point on the best window of display to my clients and tell them that instead of spending so much money and effort on their marketing, they'd rather improve their product and let them speak for themselves!

Why should they spend their valuable time and money with agency people trying to come out with good advertising for the agency?

These comments can only come from an agency person who still thinks that creativity sells.

Xeos said...

Services rendered by an Ad agency is considered 'commercial premium'. Unless the agency is publicly listed - In my opinion, there's no reason to justify the cost spent to advertise.

Unless you are a small/medium agency trying to woo corporations and bigger clients - make a mark, then awards and self advertising would work.

Unlike premium items like a beamer or rolex, commercial premium items like; commercial/performance bonds - do not need the limelight of the mass public, as it only caters to a market niche: which in this case would be, people working in the finance line.

Big Ad agencies do advertise in Germany, UK, Malaysia and Thailand on a minimal scale. It's best not to dilute the brand image of your client with your own agencies brand advertising. Let only industry watchers know 'where the ad came from', and let the masses think; 'Wow! Coke has a great ad', instead of 'Euro RSCG made a fantastic ad'.

Debbie said...

thanks so much guys for your comments, i've receive more calls and emails on the topic and we're just loving the debate.

question to thc and xeos: there's no doubt good agency work for clients speak for themselves. but how will a client know which agency did which ad?

another thing is that clients approach my team and I ever so often to ask us to suggest ad/PR agencies to them. That's great news for us because it means they value our industry opinion, but that does not really work for agencies -- especially since none of us have worked on the agency side before.

so if we're getting these questions, it means there's a need out there for agencies to get more visible.

THC said...


In my opinion, if you want to know who did what, the community is not that big to find out the cuplits behind an ad, especially given that everything (or almost everything) can now be found online.

The word of mouth also works quite well. When a good piece is out in the market, it's inevitably talked aobut and picked up by the media.

Another way for agencies to promote their work is through presentations and conferences where case studies are presented. Every individual working for agency XYZ should know its elevator pitch and be informed of the latest activities within the agency, thus promote the good work that's out there.

To eef, i couldn't agree more. A good product or service should speak for itself, as experience is everything.

Having said that, for this to work, the said product or service needs to be creative and the the essence of its creativity brough forward in the most simple way.

Creativity is not a domain restricted to ad agencies anymore. It's everywhere and critical to determine the success or failure of an action.

If you think creativity does not sell, think again, or remain in Utah.

Xeos said...

Debbie - I guess it's a matter of building credibility to be an unbiased person in the A&P industry and their clients.

In Malaysia, there's a man known as "Ham" - he runs awards and publishes directories and magazines related to the industry. His database is huge, and is so well known, everyone; new or old; knows him. He has positioned himself as the middle, neutral man.

Every agency is different, some are better than others in a specific fields, and have the skilled people to fuel it.

In regards to your question, well there are many ways to know, word of mouth, marketing initiatives, publishings, etc.

Debbie said...

Read what Al Ries has to say about this topic. he wrote "Ad Agencies should take their own advice" on 8 August 2005.

"The only industry in America that doesn't believe in advertising is the advertising industry itself. Because they don't do any.

"If advertising agencies don't believe in advertising, what do they believe in? What the advertising industry believes in is public relations.

"And why the intense interest in winning advertising awards? Awards generate publicity and publicity generates clients.

"'Do as I say, not as I do' seems to be the motto of the agency establishment.

"Maybe professional service firms like advertising agencies don't need to advertise. Maybe their reputations suffice to bring them all the business they need. This might be true, but ad agencies have no trouble recommending big advertising budgets for professional service firms like PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Deloitte & Touche and Ernst & Young.

And some advertising agency convinced Accenture to spend $100 million to launch its new brand."

Discoroach said...

The fact that advertising agencies don't advertise their is tantamount to IT firms refusing to use computers, banks storing their money under the bed and airlines only allowing their staff to travel by train.

As advertising professionals, we spend our lives persuading our clients to do something we wouldn’t dream of doing ourselves.

Debbie and Al Ries are right, this is a hypocritical business we’re in.