I’ve copied and pasted a blog entry done by Alex Bogusky of Crispin Porter + Bogusky. It stuck a chord because as I’m sure if you’re a creative field, you have had those days that feel like you’re working at McDonald’s – those “would you like ketchup, mustard and a pickle?” days. Alex’s blog, Posterous can be found at http://alexbogusky.posterous.com and it beats the shit out of mine. He’s an all-round great ad guy.
THIS IS AN EDITORIAL PIECE I DID A FEW YEARS AGO FOR ONE OF THE TRADE PUBS. I TWEAKED IT A BIT HERE AND THERE.
I was recently reminded of my first Adweek seminar more than 18 years ago. It was there that I first discovered something astounding. I found out that I worked in a service industry.
What a freaking bummer.
Over the next 18 years, I on a personal level and we as an agency dismissed the notion that we were part of the service industry and began to build our model and our philosophies around the idea that we were in manufacturing instead. A philosophy that suggested that our ultimate job was to produce great marketing products. Notice I say ultimate job, because along the way there are certainly elements of service to what we do.
And I’m not the kind of revolutionary who wants to do away with account service people. Without our brilliant account people there is only chaos. And many of the best ad people I know work in that department. And at CP+B we all, account people included, happen to believe that if it’s possible to succeed at the service yet ultimately fail to deliver the marketing that can do the job. If this is true, then we can’t be in the service industry. Great account people, media people, planners and production people deserve and take as much ownership of the marketing product as any person in the creative department does.
At a more recent seminar somebody at Adweek had somehow decided that I deserved an award for innovation. Well, as usual, I had won an award for something that I didn’t really see myself as an expert in. So, the first thing I did was to look up the definition of innovation.
Def. The act of introducing something new.
The word “new” exploded off the page for me. Because new is not something you want or expect from a member of the service industry. What you want from your travel agent is to have him or her book the destination you want and the hotels you want and that’s it.
Don’t screw it up.
For years, because we were able to just push our message on a consumer that had few options and even less control, we got by with this erroneous idea that we were in the service industry. It wasn’t important to create new and innovative products if you could simply force people to see them.
So if you agreed that the products really didn’t matter then what did?
Service. A good meeting. A good golf game. A nice limo and dinner.
What is good work is debatable. But the process for making something new and innovative is not. It is done by people who are smart, passionate and educated in their field. They work long enough and hard enough to find a path that is new and fresh.
It is not done by giving up in the name of good service.
“Hey, it’s not going to work but we did a good job because this is what our client wanted.” Bullshit. Our clients want brilliant marketing. And by surrendering our expertise over the years the industry created an advertising culture that doesn’t know how to operate when the end goal is to make something new.
Well, we’re in a bit of a pickle now. Because the product matters more than ever, and believe it or not, it will probably become even more important in the future.
This isn’t about creative. This is about every aspect of what we do. It’s about creating an industry culture that is capable of introducing new ideas into the marketplace.
So if we aren’t in the service industry (because we can’t be if we expect to succeed), then which industry are we in?
The Manufacturing Industry?
Although pretending to be in manufacturing here at CP&B was a handy exercise for us to change our own behavior, that can’t really be it. Too much, in fact, pretty much all of what we do is custom made. We don’t have assembly lines. And we aren’t expected to do something new and different every few years. We are expected to do it every day on every project that goes out the door. We create thousands of new products a year. We attempt to tap into and perhaps even change pop culture hundreds of times a year. And we create and stimulate and maintain dozens of brands a year. Still every day that goes by I’m happier that the manufacturing model has been our focus. Today so much of what we do is a more literal translation of factory. We build sites and apps and e-commerce and bike kiosks and rental platforms, etc, etc.
Unless you’ve been living under a copy of Ogilvy on Advertising lately you’ve noticed with a combination of curiosity, and perhaps dread, that every day what we do becomes more like the movie and television business. For some of you the lines may have blurred between what you do and the publishing business. And if you are on the cutting edge you find yourself spending time harnessing games, industrial design, architecture and interactive apps to help build our clients’ businesses.
It’s no coincidence that we find ourselves spending more and more time in these disciplines. These are our sister professions. All of us sharing a common industry. Advertising, movies, music, television, publishing, architecture, industrial design and graphic design.
We are all part of the Creation Industries. And it really isn’t limited to the list of industries above. The above do it full time but no matter what business you’re in today, you’re being expected to create a way of doing business that your consumers build them into their lives.
The market forces created by the rapid demise of mass media and traditional media models have made the real business we’re in clearer than ever. We’re in the business of leading our clients in creating new ideas and even mediums so compelling and entertaining that the consumer searches them out. These ideas can’t be familiar. These ideas won’t be comfortable. These ideas won’t be obvious. And they probably wont feel or look much like advertising.
Brilliance will be more powerful than ever, and yet everything from above average on down will become invisible. Produce ordinary ideas and nobody will even see them. Great clients will expect from great marketing partners the same things we all expect from the other creation industries: Create something so funny, charming, or useful that I don’t want to live without it. So more and more we will find ourselves working with and without question competing with our sister creation professions to introduce ideas new enough to grab even a few moments of our audiences finite attention. And only the very best will be rewarded.
It’s actually quaint to merely think about brands or marketing today. The marketing and the product are colliding and pretty much every web2.0 offer illustrates this. The media is the message has gone into a digital blender and come out: The media, the company and the community are the message.
The service model worked when basically anything we did created awareness because mass media was able to deliver huge audiences. And so wine cellars, golf club memberships and nights out on the town were the differentiators between good and mediocre agencies.
Good news for the next generation of disrupters. That golf stuff won’t cut it anymore.