OPINION: Let’s reassert the pride and sense of fun in what we do

Squeezed by recessionary times and masses of cost controllers, many agencies seem to believe that they no longer even belong in the ad business.

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

to buy.

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