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Brands must forge their own paths.

Earlier this year Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at Proctor & Gamble, made a significant and important speech at the 4A’s transformation conference in LA.  Pritchard made a few critical (in both senses of the word) observations that will ring true to varying degrees to advertisers and their agencies. One of Pritchard’s observations was the need for consolidation of services into more of a one-stop-shop model. And here is where other brands start scratching their heads and asking themselves: “Should we do that, too?”. And often they conclude very quickly that what’s good for P&G must be good for them as well. It’s happened a number of times in the past, and it continues to be the case, m

Advertising, road accidents and accountability

Winston Churchill once noted: “Where there is great power there is great responsibility, where there is less power there is less responsibility, and where there is no power there can, I think, be no responsibility.” Difficult to argue his point. And it’s a natural human response to an environment of high control. By way of illustration there is the story of Hans Monderman, a Dutch road traffic engineer, perhaps not the most likely role to inform the marketing world but, nonetheless, bear with me … Monderman was responsible for a road safety concept called Shared Space. With an understandably cautious beginning, the idea was to reduce traffic controls in the interests of improving driver and

Five ways to spot an agency bullshitter.

“False positive” is a scientific term. It’s used when something gets a positive result from a test that should have produced a negative result. In the world of medicine they are acutely aware false positives (and false negatives) and therefore they will often retest results before acting, particularly if the result seems unlikely and the actions are serious. In the advertising world, the term false positive has a place too. I find it a useful way to describe somebody who has all the status and trappings of success in the advertising world, but underneath the surface they don’t really know what they’re doing. I’m glad to say that in my experience there aren’t that many of them anymore, but th

Working with Animals, Children and Ad Agencies

At first glance animals, children, and ad agencies might seem like an odd bunch to group together, but they have more in common that it might first appear, for example: Dog owners spend hours training their pets, and indeed they want them to perform well: to come when called, to sit when instructed, even attack - if it’s that kind of dog. Parents want the best for their children. Who wouldn’t want their progeny to perform well at school? To learn, to progress and to achieve to their highest potential. So, before we look at what these two have to do with advertising agencies, let’s see what dogs and children have in common when it comes to the optimal way they are trained or raised: They are

How much transparency should clients expect?

The whole issue around client/agency transparency seems a little opaque. There appears to be an almost blanket expectation of total disclosure by marketing services suppliers to their clients, and that this should be considered normal, reasonable and fair. But as is the case in all good debates, we should first define our terms. What is transparency? The common expectation among advertisers is that transparency means the open disclosure by the agency of pretty detailed information about how they charge for what, be it their own fees or third-party costs. The limits of this definition are determined only by: the agency’s willingness to disclose per se their obligations to their company and em

On Procurement and Pensions

Marketing procurement continues to get a lot of flack from the agency community, not least for heavy handed negotiation practices over the levels and terms of fee payments. There are lots of contentious issues that contribute to the cyclical debates between these two parties: What is a reasonable overhead calculation? What is a reasonable profit? How much should a middleweight creative team cost? How many billable hours are there in a year? Spreadsheets are calculated and recalculated through a complex and frustrating ceremony of toing and froing until both client and agency begrudgingly agree on a compromise. The problem is that when it comes to the determination of fees for the strategic a

It’s all about the talent.

There is an inextricable correlation between an ad agency’s talent and the value the agency can create for their clients. It’s the primary reason many of the older agencies had the names of their founders above the door or recognized by their initials. These figureheads like Bernbach, Ogilvy and Burnett were not just trying to appeal to new clients as their reputations grew, they were also beacons to the industry’s best talent. There isn’t a machine (yet) that can develop effective comms strategies or invent compelling advertising ideas so the better the people the better the work, the better the clients, the better the agency, the better the profits and so on. However, not all talent is equ

What Brands Can Do for Brexit

The laws of investment apply to marketing investments as much they apply to investing in starting a business or buying government bonds: you cannot increase your return on a reduced investment without increasing your risk. To put this statement into a context for the challenge facing marketers, and assuming past behaviour is a predictor of future behaviour, then the uncertainty facing British businesses in the face of Brexit will encourage many businesses to batten down the hatches in preparation for a storm. For marketers, this defensive/protective behaviour usually means greater conservatism with brands experiencing reduced or even cancelled marketing budgets. UK inflation is already on th