One thousand members of the UK marketing community went e-WOL
aboard the Skylark last week for the seventh annual Marketing Forum, and
what a surreal experience. It could have been renamed the e-Commerce
Forum (see stories, p4), and I’m not embarrassed to admit that I learned
Funny how everyone from Amazon was ex-Amazon.co.uk, so obviously they’ve
learned a lot too! Richmond Events is to be congratulated for its
ambition and professionalism and so are the dancefloor die-hards who
still made it to breakfast each day. Fun’s still allowed, isn’t it?
So, to the inevitable big BUT. Not about organisation, or the substance
of the e-debates, or even the clients happy to receive old-style agency
entertainment, and then grumble about agencies afterwards. It’s about
the defensiveness of the ad industry. The on-board addresses concerning
’old’ advertising consisted of a rant from Toyota’s Mike Moran arguing
above-the-line pan-European ads were a waste of time (hurrah!); a rant
from Walsh Trott’s Amanda Walsh entitled ’Advertising has stopped being
functional. It’s started being decorative’; a further analysis of the
Lowe Group’s fascinating but depressing ’Ad Avoiders’ research by
Western International Media’s Ivor Hussein; and Pepsico’s Tim Davie
delivering Marketing Forum-commissioned research criticising
client-agency relationships. Only the impressive Jon Leach from HHCL
flew the flag for advertising, and we have to ask why.
Messages like Walsh’s are lapped up by smaller clients, unsure of
whether they should be advertising at all. As they sipped freebie
Bollinger in the Crow’s Nest bar, they may have been left with the
impression that agencies are over-priced, obsessed with awards and being
in Campaign, and lack the inclination to demonstrate the effectiveness
of their work.
Walsh was brave enough to name names - the ads she didn’t think worked -
but balked at showing her own agency’s output as an example of how
to ... The plausible defence is that she didn’t want to turn the rant
into even more of a sales pitch.
Integrity or cop-out? You decide.
Was there an anti-ad agency agenda on the Oriana? I don’t think so - not
least because it’s income from exhibiting agencies that pays for the
ship. Instead the industry once again allowed itself to be shot at. I’m
not blaming Walsh, who is entitled to say what she thinks. But where was
the Advertising Association, the Institute of Practitioners in
Advertising or any individual prepared to stand up and relate the many
huge advertising success stories from fcuk to Orange, Volkswagen to
Boddingtons? Perhaps they weren’t asked, but they should have been up
there. We need to stand up for ourselves. Rupert Howell started so
brightly as IPA president.
As a cricket fan, he must know how important it is not to be forced on
to the back foot.