After years of being on the receiving end of slightly hysterical presentations from agencies desperate to claim the cutting edge, I'd like to think agencies are back to focusing on the right solutions rather than the fashionable ones.
The preoccupation with digital has opened up some fantastic opportunities for the advertising industry and transformed the business. But along the way perspectives have sometimes been skewed.
A car marketer told me sheepishly the other day about a social media campaign he'd run a couple of years ago that had proved rather popular among 18- to 24-year-olds, none of whom could actually afford to buy the car he was trying to sell. It did nothing tangible for his sales, unless you take a very long-term view and hope to nuture the buyers of 2020 (by when the marque in question will probably have ceased to exist).
The car client blamed himself as much as his agency for wanting to have a hot digital campaign under his belt. And thankfully the costs involved were relatively modest. And everyone learned a few things. But mostly they learned not to get carried away with what's possible and to focus on what's right.
Mind you, this gradual readjustment in the status afforded to the word "digital" does create rather a lot of white space in agencies' PowerPoint creds. If digital is a given, how should agencies distinguish themselves, their culture and their innovative approach?
I can only imagine that it's this sort of conundrum that led Leo Burnett to come up with its latest video take on "Humankind", delivered by the global executive creative director Mark Tutssel and presumably directed by one of the agency's college work experience teams.
Tutssel always struck me as a good creative and a decent bloke when he was working in the UK. But his "Humankind" video (find it on Vimeo) is simply excruciating, full of empty jargon and ridiculous marketing bullshit. And it taints the entire industry in the process.
It's a shame because Leo Burnett London is a good agency with some very smart, fun and not at all bullshitty people making some fine ads and doing some interesting, innovative work that doesn't need to be bagged and labeled with anything as cack-handed as "Humankind". I hope they're not under any pressure to start talking the same crap.
Yes, it is far from easy to create a distinctive agency culture and positioning in the post-digital age. But here's a thought: how about getting back to a focus on people, on the talent in the agency, their work and how effective it is for their clients' business. If you've got the best people and demonstrable results, you don't need the bullshit, digital or otherwise.