How would you feel if you paid a visit to an architect and found
him or her practising in a poorly designed building? Or if you went to a
Savile Row tailor and found him wearing an ill-fitting suit?
Would you be filled with confidence about their professional
No. So why is it that many companies which purport to be experts in
marketing - particularly advertising - appear careless when it comes to
I’m not talking about the ability of agencies in spectacular one-off
new-business pitches, but rather their day-to-day approach to marketing
that most difficult of clients - themselves.
Of course, there are numerous examples of agencies that do this
superbly, but equally there are many that should take things more
Support material which is sent out, whether it be a brochure, showreel,
credentials document or other form of propaganda, is often put together
with little care or thought about the recipient.
How does the reception look? Stylish and utilitarian or genuinely
Either way, is it consistent with the image companies want to give a
potential client, recruit, or member of staff?
Is there genuine synergy between all agency material? Does the logo
feature everywhere? Are the same colours used? Are the commercials on
the showreel the latest executions? To an outsider, would everything
look as though it came from the same source?
Of course, this all depends on whether the material is available in the
first place. ’Our brochure is being reprinted’ must be heard as often in
the agency world as ’the cheque’s in the post’ is by debt
There are many agencies that like to think of themselves as genuine
But there are significantly less who really seem to apply the same
rigorous disciplines to marketing themselves which they would insist
that their clients apply to their brands.
Yes, everyone is busy. But surely agencies should be taking note of what
they are always telling their clients: ’Invest in your brand’. Would a
retail client countenance stocking out-of-date material or, heaven
forbid, none at all?
By investment, I mean investment in time. It’s less about money and more
about care and consistency.
But is it important? Does it really make a difference? I would say that,
increasingly, it does.
As clients find it more and more difficult to differentiate between
potential agency offerings, many appear to be assessing an agency’s
ability to market itself as an indication of its suitability. The logic
is obvious. ’If an agency can’t market itself, how can I guarantee that
it can market me?’
As I said, it’s not just a case of throwing money at the problem. In
fact, doing so can often give negative results. Producing expensive
material can sometimes be interpreted by clients as an indication that
the agency will be expensive, although it could be argued that any
client who took such a limited view is not one with whom you’d be likely
to enjoy a mutually respectful relationship.
Perhaps agencies are finally beginning to see the light. Some employ
marketing directors as well as new-business directors - although
sometimes one person has to fill both roles.
Time will tell whether the move towards having a marketing function at a
senior level is a result of a desire to take the discipline seriously or
just agencies paying lip-service to a perceived trend.
The marketing of an agency brand is an important task. Perhaps the time
has come for them to seek a little professional outside help. Who would
you ask to pitch for your agency’s account?