A Sense of Perspective

There’s nothing like a break (this is the first Cog Blog for about 4 weeks) to give one a sense of perspective. Stumbling around Mexican archaeological sites wondering how the Mayans managed to track astrological movements so incredibly accurately 1,000 or so years ago creates an even greater sense of wonder than the average programmatic conference (most of which only feel like they’ve lasted that long).

Then you come back and guess what? All the issues left behind are still here. No-one’s fixed Brexit, no-one’s managed to talk sense into the Audi procurement team, and no-one is any the wiser as to what on earth media agency futurologists actually do all day.

I remember when I was applying for my first job, just after I had decided that ad agencies were crying out for my particular talents. I managed to blag my way in to see a leading ad guru of the day to ask his advice on how best to get started.

He couldn’t have been clearer: agencies had no future, they were finished, their glory days were behind them, it was no fun anymore. Do something else, was the basic message.

Luckily (for me, I mean) I ignored him and was soon gainfully employed living the dream in an agency post-room. It was what you did, back then.

The point is that discussions around the future of agencies and their operating model have been around for yonks, certainly way before most people’s memories. Probably just as well for conference organisers, social media obsessives, and yes, even bloggers who can keep repeating the same theories with the certainty that their well-tested views will be seen as fresh rather than rehashed.

Despite the gloom-monger of all those years ago, here we are, in a vibrant industry within which some of the smartest still think it’s worth breaking away from the safety of the conglomerates in order to start ‘a new kind of agency’, and which seems able to attract both management consultancies and private equity money.

It may seem the most obvious thing in the world to say but what drives the ad business is what’s always driven it – great ideas. Doing things differently. Seeing the world sufficiently weirdly to come up with ideas that break through the dross that has always been there.

As Burger King CMO Fernando Machado put it: “This case … shows … why our creative partners (aka advertising agencies) are so relevant. Big creative ideas eat programmatic, AI, trends and even a beautifully put together McKinsey presentation for lunch. And these days, people seem to forget that. The big idea is where our industry should focus.”

So multiple cheers to Warburton’s for having the balls (let alone the cash) to execute on the idea of hiring Robert de Niro to sell bagels; to Goodstuff (spot the link) for demonstrating yet again via their media showcase challenge that media agencies are truly a part of the creative process; and to the anonymous lads behind the pressure group Led By Donkeys who have demonstrated to us all (whatever our politics) how to use social media to amplify an OOH campaign.

And boo to the Cannes Lions for showcasing the successors of Cambridge Analytica; to Audi procurement for seemingly not valuing the role that BBH has played in building their brand and their sales; and to L’Oreal who only a few short years after popping up on platforms with (if memory serves) ID Comms boasting about how they had run the perfect pitch to find their long-term media agency partner are back this time with Aperto One for an unfortunate encore.

Ideas, not gross impressions, not clicks, not likes, not CPMs. One follows the other, night follows day. Dream on.

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