Monday, June 30, 2014

Instead Of Cutting Costs, How About We Try To Make More Money?

My Dad is a talented guy.

He speaks several languages, is great at sports, and had a successful career in media sales.

But like many a curmudgeonly older Jewish gentleman, he is rather obsessed with the topic of how to save money. I like to tell him that if he put half as much thought into how to make money as he does into how to save it, he'd net-net be much better off.

But I now realise I've fallen into exactly the same trap myself.

In previous posts about how our industry can survive in the face of intense competition and margin pressures, I've suggested losing Creative Directors, or fusing Art Directors & Copywriters, or Suits & Planners. Basically, all ways to save money.

I've failed to consider how we might instead make more money.

This article, called 'The Demise And Rise Of Our Industry', does just that.

It's written by a guy called John Zeigler, who is the CEO of DDB Asia Pac. Yes, I know he's my boss's boss's boss so you might think I'm sucking up. Well, I can't control what you think. Just read the article. It's excellent.

But if you haven't got time to read it, the essence is this:

Clients are asking us to cut our fees by about 10% a year. We consider ourselves lucky if we settle at -8%. To stay profitable, we have to keep cutting staff. If the same trend carries on, we'll be dead within about five years.

The role of marketing has been degraded. Where once Marketers controlled the four P's, they now control only one P - Promotion. (One of the P's is Product. In a marketing-led company, the Marketers tell the company what products to make. In not many companies do Marketers have that power, nowadays).

Therefore the position of Marketers has been degraded. A study by Adobe, for example, found that 80% of CEOs do not trust marketers, 70% of CEOs believe marketers are disconnected from business results, and 69% of CEOs believe marketers like to stay too much in ‘their creative and social-media bubbles’.

John's conclusion? We need to change our role, dramatically. We need to go much further upstream, and help our clients develop new products and services, and influence how they engage with their staff, and how they take their products to market.

In short, we need to help Marketers show CEO's that we can use our creativity to solve their business problems - not just to create ads.

If we can do that, we'll be adding extra services - useful services that we can charge more money for - and we just might survive.

Good stuff from Mr Z. 

Dad - take note.

Monday, June 23, 2014

What Happens In Cannes, No Longer Stays In Cannes

Cannes used to be shrouded in mystique. But today, you can read dozens of blogs every day, about everything that goes on.

It used to be that you could only see all this incredible work from all around the world, if you actually went there. Now, you can see it on the website.

It used to be that you'd have to 'imagine' what these boat parties and villa parties looked like, unless you actually went. Now you see them all over Facebook and Instagram.

It used to be that you could only hear the speakers if you went. Now, they're all online too.

And it used to be that you couldn't even go to Cannes unless you were a Creative, or a production company person, whereas it's now full of Suits, Clients... even Kanye West gets to go. 

So today's Cannes is actually a lot more democratic and public than it used to be.

The inspirational elements - the great work, the thought-leadership talks - are more widely shared than ever before.

And so is the fun.
The effect of this more public Cannes? To create more irritation and jealousy, for sure. But also, I reckon, to make us more highly motivated - more determined to have either the great work, or the influence, that will get us there next year. And that, mes amis, is surely a good thing.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Do We Actually Need Creative Directors?

Volvo's epic split film is hotly tipped to win a Grand Prix or two at Cannes this year.

Interestingly, it was made without the involvement of a Creative Director.

The agency behind it, Sweden's Forsman & Bodenfors, doesn't have them.

I've written previously about how - in a world of crumbling margins - agencies need to become leaner. By far our biggest cost is staff, so my suggestions included fusing Art Directors & Copywriters, or Suits & Planners.

Perhaps self-interestedly, I didn't think about abolishing Creative Directors.

But could we? They're a huge cost, after all.

At first sight, it seems like we'd be losing a hell of a lot. After all, someone has to make the decision about what work to present. And in the absence of a CD, I guess it would be the senior Suit & Planner on an account who would decide. Most of the time this would probably work okay. But I've known plenty of CD's who had an almost supernatural ability to spot potential in an idea when no one else did.

Also, the senior Suit & Planner would probably be the people shaping the work. Again, most of the time this would probably be fine. But as before, I've known plenty of CD's who have the ability to push work to a level beyond what anyone else thought was possible.

So how do F&B manage without CD's, given my predictions of the effect that removing CD's would have on a typical agency process? Answer: they don't have a typical agency process. At all.

There's an interesting article about how they work here. If you don't have time to read the whole thing, here's the key bit: 

"The process by which people view and critique work is called 'the floor' — a holdover from the days when Forsman & Bodenfors was mainly making print ads, which could easily be spread out on the floor for people to see. You bring in at least five employees not attached to the project to go over the work and ask questions. It is the duty of these people to have an opinion of the work and openly express it, without holding anything back. They must ask questions about the work, questions they could envision the client or the general public asking about the direction. On the other side, the creators of the work must be open-minded, and although the ultimate decision of what to present to the client falls on their shoulders, they generally accept the critiques of their peers and go back to improve the work before presenting it to the clients."

So what do you think? CD's out?

Monday, June 09, 2014

Those Ads You Have A Strong Opinion About... Have You Actually Seen Them?

It's very common for people to pretend to have read books, when in fact they haven't.

Apparently this is particularly true of the classics, such as Moby-Dick, Catch-22, and 1984.

Part of this is shame - people just don't want to admit they haven't read them. But I reckon part of it is that they just don't feel they need to. Even people who haven't read Moby-Dick know that it's about Captain Ahab's obsession with catching a white whale -  a story of compulsion on the high seas. People probably feel they've 'got the idea' so they don't need to invest the time in actually reading it.

And looking at the Leo Burnett Cannes predictions, which came out this week, made me wonder... are a lot of us doing the same with ads now?

You see, I found myself having quite strong opinions about which ideas deserved to win... even ones I suddenly realised that I hadn't actually watched.

The ad industry is well-served with trade magazines and websites. So what happens nowadays is that we read about a new TV ad, or activation, or social media idea, in a neat package: headline, a few lines of description about the project, and an accompanying screenshot. My question is - once you've digested these, do you then actually click through and watch the film? Or do you feel you don't need to, because you've 'got the idea'?

Take this quick test.

Here are five examples of an ad, activation, or social media idea - all of them (in my opinion) great ideas, and all hotly tipped to win at Cannes. I guarantee that you 'know the idea' for all of them. And probably have strong opinions about them.

But please tell me - just for research - how many of the 5 have you actually watched?

And if you haven't, does it matter?

1 Cancer Council Australia "I Touch Myself - Breast Cancer Anthem" From JWT / Sydney 


2 Virgin Mobile "Game of Phones" From Havas Worldwide & One Green Bean

3  Australia Post "Video Stamp" From Clemenger BBDO

4  7-Eleven - Slurpee "The Xpandinator" From Leo Burnett / Melbourne

5  RAC Insurance "Attention Powered Car" From JWT / Sydney

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Are Apps The New Screenplays?

A lot of Creatives nowadays seem to be developing apps on the side.

(The picture is of an old BBH colleague of mine, Dan Hubert, who created the successful 'AppyParking' app, which tells you where you can park in London.)

This is new.

A few years ago, Creatives were writing screenplays. The talk was all about Creatives who had got movies made (example: Andrew Niccol, former BBDO Creative who wrote The Truman Show and Gattaca).

Before that, Creatives were writing novels. (Examples: George Orwell, Joseph Heller, Fay Weldon, Salman Rushdie).

Why has it changed?

Well, obviously apps weren't around when Joseph Heller wrote Catch-22. That's a given.

I think it's more interesting to think about what has not changed.

What has not changed is that Creatives like to be on the cutting edge of culture. In 1968, that was the novel. Today, it's the app.

Also, Creatives will always be attracted by the ability to do something that is purely our own thing. Whether that's an app, a screenplay, or a novel... what they all have in common is that they're unmediated by any client.

And finally - and perhaps a little controversially - they're all forms of lottery ticket. Being a Creative is a steady job (albeit considerably less steady than the civil service) but you're unlikely to strike it rich.

But with a novel, a screenplay, or an app there is just that chance that you might...