Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Publicis Pulling Out Cannes And Other Awards Is A Mistake

As an advertising recruiter, I was very dismayed last week when I read that Publicis management, with no advanced warning, pulled its agencies out of next year’s Cannes advertising festival as well as all other award shows.  It is one more example of the holding companies dictating how their agencies manage themselves; the worst part is that the agencies were not informed of the decision before it was announced. (Of course not, it would have generated push-back)  It is one more blow to the creativity in the business.

The Cannes Lion has become the most prestigious creative award in the business.  Clients respect it.  Agencies thrive on it.  And creative people aspire to it.  Sometimes the competition is quite heated, as it was this year in several categories.

It is good for the business.  I have never heard of a Gold Lion winner not producing sales or perception increases for the brand’s or services for which it was won.

With one of the major players removed from the competition, it is one more example of the dumbing- down of the business.  Publicis said the money spent on Cannes (and other awards) would be redirected to an Artificial Intelligence (AI) project, which has not spelled out.  The trade press estimated that a total of $20 million was spent by all Publicis agencies on Cannes.

Give me a break.

That is about the salary of one of their corporate management people.  Get rid of one of them to find the money.  It is a minuscule amount compared to their total revenues and profits. It is a short-sighted savings which only serves to dampen the entire business.  It was bad enough that WPP asked its agencies to cut back on Cannes expenses.  What’s next:  WPP or Omnicom dropping out?
Dropping out only hurts the entire business. It certainly will hurt recruiting for Publicis owned agencies.  It is not that creative people won't go there, but perhaps the best and the brightest will go elsewhere.

Creative awards have always been an incentive for ad agencies.  They are also a recognition of the work by others in the business.  It is ridiculous and may do more harm than good.  The explanation by Arthur Sadoun, President-CEO of Publicis, that this is only a one year decision, is unacceptable. Publicis dropping out is no different than if  Paramount pulled out of the Oscars to fund new scripts. 

I would urge Mr Sadoun to reconsider.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fifteen Ways the Advertising Business Used To Be More Fun, Part II

Last week I gave the first seven reasons. Here are the last eight.

8.    Everyone lived for the work
The work was everything.  Even at the straightest, most boring agencies, everyone believed in what they were doing and what they had created.  We all lived to make it better.  Every agency fought back against copy testing which made the work bland.  We all loved those arguements, (but rarely won them).

9.    There were no silos
If someone had an idea, agencies would find a way to act on it.  A person could have a non-media, public relations idea or a promotional thought on how to push their client’s business and it would get presented and often executed.  Creatives came up with new product ideas. Media commissions provided the room to do non-revenue ideas or the client actually gladly paid for them.

10.     There was integration among the agency disciplines, especially media
Media, account, research and creative met together to determine strategy and client direction.  Those meetings were often long and argumentative, but what resulted was successful and good work.  When media was in the same building, there was more synergy.

            11.  Everyone had his or her own office 
I have written about open plan offices.  There is empirical proof that open plan does not foster creativity; that is a myth perpetuated by finance in order to save money.  People thrived in their own private space.  It also incentivized people to aspire upward so they could bet bigger and better space.  And, indeed, a good office was a mark of an employee’s success and status.
12.     Agencies had real bonus plans, profit-sharing and other incentives
Especially at the big agencies, people who worked at them for ten or more years could leave with a huge nest-egg.  Smaller agencies did other things to keep employees.
13)  Summer Fridays made the business attractive
Taking Friday off during the summer was commonplace.  Many agencies had half-day Fridays or every other Friday off.  Today, not so much; a few agencies offer a couple of optional Fridays in the summer, but many have done away with this perk all together.  There is no evidence that taking away this perk increased productivity.  However, in order to meet the demands of client procurement which lists how many hours the agency must work, this wonderful benefit has gradually waned. 
14)  Big Parties
Part of the whole Mad Men thing was having big, lavish parties which included spouses and suppliers, not just at the holidays, but during the year.  There were many excuses – Welcome Summer, Spring Picnics, etc.  It made people like the business and look forward to staying at their agency.
 15)  Less Fear
Finally, there was less fear.  Fear of being fired or cut back.  I have written about fear.  People who worked on an account that left an agency knew that if they were doing a good job,  knew they would probably not be fired.  And if they were cut back they were, for the most part, given fair and decent severance. 
I am sure you can add to this list or correct it.  I would love to hear your opinions.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Fifteen Ways The Advertising Business Used To Be More Fun, Part I

If you are under forty or so, you keep hearing how much fun advertising used to be. Starting back in the 1990’s things began to get serious and, today, most of the fun has been squeezed out of the business.  This has happened largely because of client dictated fees. Most of the things on this list, which are now missing, can be traced back to the reduction of income to ad agencies.

As I was writing, this list got long enough to do it in two parts.  Second part, next week.

Many of us have seen the business lose its luster and fun, which effects the work. One comment puts this post into perspective. About fifteen years ago, a very well-known advertising person was approached to come out of retirement and become chairman of one of the major agencies.  He and I had lunch to discuss the feasibility of his success.  One of the things he wanted to do was to bring back water-fights to the creative department. Yes, that’s right, water-fights.  Literally. (Over my advertising career, more than once I got soaked just being an innocent - or not so innocent - by-stander.) I suggested that he should probably not bring it up to the management team interviewing him; I didn't think it was appropriate. But he brought it up anyway.  He did not get the job.  I  thought strategy was right, but the execution wrong – we need to bring back the fun.

I have given this a lot of thought and here are some of the things that actually made the business fun.  Most don’t exist anymore.

1.    Big production film shoots
I can remember going to California for weeks at a time with the client and a huge contingent of agency people.  An entire account and creative group would go, including assistants.  We stayed lavishly (I loved the bungalows at The Beverly Hills Hotel), ate where ever we wanted and the clients joined us.  It was a wonderful bonding experience and, ultimately, helped produce better work.

2.    There were real training programs
Once upon a time all the young people participated in real training; training was for account people, creatives, research and media.  It consisted of lectures about the work (often showing creative work from other agencies), about strategy, marketing, about the media and about the business, often culminating in being given a case which the participants were broken into groups to solve.  Everyone worked hard, had a good time and got really good exposure to management who judged their work.  It, too, was great for bonding.  Case history winners got good prizes and accolades. Assistant account executives and junior creative people went on local shoots – it was part of training and got people motivated and involved with the business.

3.    Agencies did much more than advertising
We wrote both marketing and advertising plans.  We analyzed sales and marketing data and made recommendations based on our observations.  Last week, I wrote about the best focus group insight – the issue was only tangentially related to advertising. We worked with clients as their partners to solve problems, bring new products to market.  Sometimes, we even conceived of those products.

4.     We went out with salesmen and helped make sales calls
We were so integrated into our client’s business that, often, the client sales force came to us with observations and ideas rather than their own management.

5.    Water-fights and other nonsense were an integral part of the business
They really did happen. Probably not as much as portrayed by those who, in retrospect, yearn for the good old days.  But ad agencies worked hard and played hard.  I can remember a head of account management who would take the entire account group out to the movies during lunchtime. We ended up loving each other and having fun.

6.    Client entertaining wasn’t just reserved for management
Everyone was encouraged to spend social time with clients.  Getting to know clients on a one-to-one basis was taken for granted.  Going to good restaurants, theatre and ball games was encouraged and smart business. These perks were not just reserved for senior management.

7.    Everyone pitched in to help each other
Long before there were collating machines, I can remember laying out huge documents on a conference room table and having twenty people march around collating the pages.  It gave everybody a sense of ownership and participation.

To be continued, next week.
Creative Commons License