This week I was invited to speak on branding and marketing to group graduate students who are studying towards a master degree in branding. I shared part of my Advanced Branding Masterclass material, which covers the future of branding in the world of social technologies and connectivity. Their instructor (an advertising veteran who had a long agency career including Leo Burnett) raised a very interesting point, 20 or 30 years ago advertising agencies were in the business of selling “ideas”, today many are becoming audio and video factories. And he realized that our success is all about ideas. That is very true, who are the creators of “ideas” these days? Idea Couture is exactly about ideas, not only communications but strategic ideas…. be it brand, product, service, interface, interactive, and retail experience.
We have a good chat about the agency scenes in the 80s. I always remember the self-advertising of Leo Burnett in those days. I still keep copies of them including the one I scanned and posted here. This is one that I really like is “When to take my name off the door” – Leo Burnett 1967. It was elegantly written. He was not only a great craftsman, but understand how to create a strong organization culture. “Creative ideas flourish best in a shop which preserves some spirit of fun. Nobody is in business for fun, but that does not mean there cannot be fun in business.”A lesson I learned from him it is always important not to take the fun away from work.
A while back I was invited to a private event involving top 30 global executives of an agency group. There were so much fear and unknown among them about the future of their business or industry. They struggle with the legacies that they carry but at the same time they know they are too big to adapt flexibly to the fast changing media scene. Media is being redefined on a daily basis and brands no longer have passive, anonymous audience whose behaviors are predictable.
We are moving to "cocoon of rich media experiences that follow us from one place to another and from morning till night. The penetration of iPad will be accelerating the “cocooning” and the open up creative possibilities of building longer pauses into our entertainment mix to allow for double screening or triple-screening. Imagine if future TV production adjusted to the reality of multitasking during long boring bits. This is exciting for many.
Agencies need to throw away these out-dated paradigms of CRM, direct marketing or public relations etc. And forget about integrated campaign and start from a clean sheet of paper. Advertisers were getting MTV lazy for a long period of time as they relied on sexy bodies, sound bites and spectacular effects and forgot about the big idea. Not that those 20 secs sight and sound are not entertaining, but we need more.
Tools change, technologies advance, new behavior emerges, media outlets proliferate but objectives don’t’. We need to engage, intrigue, connect, persuade, amuse, empower and entertain. Advertising agencies need to partake in extensive therapies to cure their MTV laziness and deflate their egos. This problem is systemic.
Agencies don’t understand strategy. They keep hide behind “brand building” and fail to understand the economics of customers and marketing. They overcharge for the execution and incapable of giving clients real strategies to engage customers and create customer value, both tangible customer value and conversational value.
Almost all big agencies only pay lip service to digital and don’t understand social media beyond throwing buzz words around. For them, they are just another way to broadcast their messages. They hire and a few digital thinkers who have no real authority, no resources, no real work, and use them as PR figure in front of clients. They farm out the work to little mom and pop development shops that undervalue themselves and lose credit for the work.
Agencies need to put communications aside for a second and start opening up their minds on new creative ways to build long-lasting human connections, between brands and individuals and among individuals. Everything that matters in the future of advertising begins and ends with three things: people and their communities and purpose. Go to slideshare to see some of my slides presentation on this topic. Big agencies need help.