Advertising agencies are some of the worst communicators in business. The old saw that the hardest ad to do is the house ad is invariably greeted around the boardroom table with resigned nods and knowing chuckles. Which in any other business would be considered a fucking disgrace.
The house ad is hard when you don’t have a point of view. I’ve banged on incessantly on this ‘ere blog, that a point of view on the business in which you operate is the foundation for any brand worth the designation. it’s what makes you stand apart; it’s why you do, what you do, the way that you do it. Timidity and equivocation make for pallid brands, invisible ads and impotent ad agencies.
Dave Trott and Bob Hoffman probably think I’m desperate to weasel my way into their good graces because I write about them quite a lot here. But in the land of blog, which ought to be Utopia for advertising people, they are far and away the most readable and interesting ad bloggers. Their posts communicate the way their ads do. They are written with the audience in mind, they’re entertaining, instructive and provocative. They’re carefully crafted, consistently presented and yet always fresh. They are extensions of their agency or personal brands, but the brands are the by-product, not the content.
Here’s the really interesting thing, all grovelling paeans aside, these old time ad guys, steeped as they are in TV, billboards and press ads have two of the earlier and more successful entries into the Orwellian world of interactive media. That dread place where advertising will meet its nemesis and brands must practice the doublethink and newspeak of engagement and transparency or face certain extinction.
With some notable exceptions, ad agency blogs are proof positive that agencies fear to practice what they prattle. They avoid polarising or provocative opinion in favour of blathering about their latest campaign or digital doodad. They are either ambivalent about the precarious state of the advertising business, or simply have no opinion either one way or the other.
Advertising works. The core principles are as relevant today as they were in the days of Ogilvy, Burnett and Bernbach. When confronted by a new and strange medium, good advertising practitioners figure out the mechanics and then apply those core principles in a manner that compliments the environment.
It won’t be the internet that kills advertising and ad agencies, it’ll be the lack of our own belief in the value of what we know and what we do – and the unmistakable reek of fear.