Campaign staff are often asked what is the most important single issue
facing the industry today. We try to get excited about whether creatives
should direct, the virtual nature of freelance teams and the advertising
is art debate - but these are all sideshows.
The most important issue facing the advertising industry today is
unquestionably the breakdown in trust between clients and their
agencies, and how it can be rectified.
Story after story reflects this situation. In the past two weeks alone,
Elida Faberge, the RAC, Saab, Baileys and Bass have all moved business
in a manner that contains an element of poor client-agency relationship,
compounded by internal politics at the client end. In certain cases,
losing agencies are not informed of the possibility of the business
moving until it’s done and dusted - and even then, not always before a
Campaign reporter calls with the news, often resulting in panic at the
Some will say advertising was ever thus because of the traditional
gentleman’s agreement nature of so many ‘contracts’. And delivering bad
news can make cowards out of thoroughly decent clients.
We’re not so sure. There is a vindictiveness afoot; a certain knowing
infliction of pain. It appears clients are still getting their own back
for the 80s.
What can agencies do, particularly when they have only an average of 18
months or so with any given marketing director before he or she leaves?
One solution is to build relations at the very top, like Lord Saatchi.
The danger here is of alienating the staff lower down the food chain.
The real answer has to lie in agencies proving their business worth by
demonstrating creative effectiveness or proving they are genuine
business partners who understand their clients’ greater business
requirements. In the meantime, one sure thing is that banging on about
advertising being art is one long industry suicide note.