The arrogance of advertising agency people never ceases to amaze me.
Years of working for them (not in them) convinces me that this
apparently unfair generalisation has few exceptions. The public displays
of self-congratulation are painful enough, claiming sole ‘ownership’ of
a marketing success when in reality it’s usually the outcome of far more
detailed, less ego-ridden work elsewhere. But what really grates is the
way that agencies conduct themselves commercially and professionally.
Let me come clean - I’m a market researcher. I’ve grown deeply cynical
about the way agencies use and talk about research.
First, the pitch. This comprises fairly flaky ‘data’, too frequently
hewn from despatching the junior planner to conduct a group discussion
or two just beforehand. The (so-called) creative strategy is usually
written before this research, so the objective is to post-rationalise
the strategy, rather than to help develop it. Then there is the
quantitative phase, although agencies tend to avoid putting their heads
in this particular noose because they can’t manipulate what they might
get out of it or make much money on it. Sums seem to be overly
The third example of dodgy practice is the way that ad agencies treat
research agencies. Usually, they want something unbelievably quickly,
poorly thought out and very cheap. The ‘deal’ is then made through
promises of more profitable work in the future. In fact, this cycle just
starts again, because the promiscuity of agencies is the stuff of
legend. Then, if you’re lucky, after three months and ten calls to the
accounts department, you might be paid.
Ad agencies’ inability to move into broader marketing areas like
management consultancy is well documented. Yet, for some reason,
research is an area where they think they have expertise. Er, no.
It’s no surprise then to constantly read bleats about research
‘tampering’ with the creative gem of the poor love who put it together.
Or the same precious souls talking about research as being boring. Like
advertising, it sometimes is. But the difference is that I can blow you
away in front of the client. Since I like doing good research, I talk to
clients. They tend to know what they are talking about, and see further
than their noses on long-term strategy.
Why, I can even count to 400.
Send your 400-word rants to Stefano Hatfield at 174 Hammersmith Road,
London W6 7JP