A view from Claire Beale, claire.beale@haymarket.com

Editor's Perspective: Ad agencies must seek out a brave new world

My first day back after the Christmas break was dominated by a discussion that I think might well set the tone for the rest of the year.

One famous advertising name said to another famous advertising name: "I know we all talk a good game, but why, why is so much advertising so bad?" Second famous advertising name immediately replied: "We think about it all too much."

What he meant was too many advertising ideas get too researched, too many people get too involved in making the decisions and agonise too much about the whole process. Wise heads nodded all round.

But why does all this thinking, all this research and all this collective decision-making (otherwise known as abnegating responsibility) result in ads nobody likes and that don't work? The opposite should be true.

I don't know. But I do know that the conventional approach is expensively flawed and dramatically counter to a commercial world where brands must act faster and more decisively than ever.

The irony is that clients blame agencies for being too slow, yet deploy so many cross-checks that the communications process operates at a painfully laboured pace. I don't advocate spending millions of pounds on a whim. But I can think of plenty of brands that spend millions on a campaign idea after exhaustive research and testing but with little return.

So if you feel the need to give 2011 a theme, can I suggest one rooted in bravery and instinct and trust in the experts. Conviction and balls.

I suppose I'm directing this sentiment to any marketers who might be reading, but it's time that agencies had the confidence to push for braver, more instinctive client decision-making. And for advertising decisions to be made by those in client companies who are empowered and experienced enough to make swift and sensible calls.

It's not surprising that all this is echoed in the AAR research among global agency chiefs. Apparently, they too long for "braver clients who support big ideas" and "less reliance on research and quantitative testing". If agencies don't find a way of making these fantasies a reality, they will find their advertising services even less valued by those very clients that are part of the problem.

It wouldn't be New Year without dramatic executive exits. But this week's bloodbath at ITV seems to have caught most by surprise, including some of the country's biggest advertisers. There was much talk among senior marketers this week about why, if ITV wants to pursue greater collaboration with its commercial clients, it hadn't actually taken the time to inform them of the upheaval. Some things never change.