Squeezed by recessionary times and masses of cost controllers, many
agencies seem to believe that they no longer even belong in the ad
Why are so many advertising people afraid that what they do isn’t good
You can tell they’re afraid because so many of them think they should be
something else - management consultants or ‘through-the-line’
specialists - or because, even though they stick to advertising, they
seem to undervalue it.
But before we all jump ship on to HMS Integrated why don’t we start to
restate forcefully what we know to be the real value of what we do best.
Each new trend and buzzword is often described as being the result of
innovations in marketing or a revolutionary new force in media and
communications which is transforming our industry.
In reality, the driving force in both client companies and agencies is
something very old fashioned: money.
Recessionary times have concentrated minds on value for money. More
specifically, the focus is on cost measurement, accountability and
But what does value and cost control mean? Too often, it means a drive
towards lower margins. This results in an erosion of advertising’s value
and the raw price of advertising expertise.
In the face of this, it’s time to redress the value equation towards
quality rather than price; towards benefit, not merely cost. It’s time
for some evangelism.
The staff of agencies need pride not only in their own agency but in the
business of advertising itself. It’s time for the advertising community
to get on the front foot.
We’re told that advertising is the least precise marketing discipline.
If you can’t measure the output, the output doesn’t exist. This argument
forgets that advertising fathered most of the marketing analysis
techniques currently in use. We’re told that brand advertising can’t
provide sure measures of its value in the way that, for example, direct
response advertising or sales promotion can.
What’s forgotten is that you can measure the crude response of direct
advertising but that this isn’t an accurate comparison with brand
campaigns. To do that, you must measure the quality of those responses
and the longevity of their effect.
While we’re on the subject of precision, accurate measurement of sales
promotion and other disciplines is a double-edged sword. For every
short-term sales response recorded, the longer term measurement often
highlights a simple substitution of volume.
Advertising effectiveness isn’t impossible to measure, it’s just
difficult. More important is the power it has to deliver something more
enduring and much more valuable in every sense. It can engender a desire
The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising’s effectiveness scheme,
although it manifests itself as an awards system, is not simply about
handing out more gongs to agencies.
Effectiveness is at the heart of the scheme; it’s about value for money;
it’s about cost control, not in the brutal sense of cutbacks, but of
clear measurement of input and output, investment and return. In short,
it’s about quality rather than price as a driver of value.
Perhaps I’m pointing out the existence of a cyclical phenomenon.
Advertising has been guilty of appalling arrogance.
That arrogance made it the first target of cost controllers and today
advertising agencies have been chastened to the point of shame,
underselling and undervaluing themselves. No wonder the business has
lost its sense of enjoyment.
Perhaps the time has come to shout about what we do and to show some
pride in the genuine value of what we create. You never know, we might
even start enjoying ourselves.
Chris King is deputy managing partner of Mellors Reay and Partners