OPINION: Tangible results guarantee true advertising happiness

Not all ad executives suffer from low self-esteem and self-doubt. In this era of accountability, the ones with their heads down are above water, Simon Dalby writes

Not all ad executives suffer from low self-esteem and self-doubt. In

this era of accountability, the ones with their heads down are above

water, Simon Dalby writes

It is easy to make a sneering response to the revelation (Campaign, 22

November) that the lives of ad executives are made miserable because

only 28 per cent believe their campaigns are effective.

‘I bet they have lost all faith in themselves,’ I hear you splutter. But

this touches on the human need to see some measurable results from the

sweat of honest toil.

Had advertising executives existed in the days of Marx, he would

doubtless have dedicated a chapter to them in his reflections on

alienated labour.

These poor souls work the kind of hours that most factory workers would

strike over. What’s more, they live under a shadow. While ad executives

are only as good as their last campaign, it’s simply not possible to

draw any solid conclusions from the work they do.

Compare this with the precision to which those operating below-the-line

have access. As the Air Miles director, Wanda Goldwag, says: ‘You have

an idea, you have a concept, and you test it. Two or three weeks later

you find out whether or not you are right.’

OK, so the industry is waking up to the idea of accountability with

stuff like the IPA Effectiveness Awards. And about time too.

No doubt the half a dozen or so agencies that consistently win such

awards have executives less plagued by ‘alienated angst’ than those from

creative hotshops, where accountability means the creative director

remembering his pounds 500 Cannes awards lunch receipt.

But these measures are either pretty soft - with ‘intention to buy’

ratings - or else amazingly presumptuous about the effects advertising

has had on a sales curve.

Rumblings in the marketplace about accountability and satisfying the

money men indicate that creatives don’t like having to account for their

spending, as other advertising departments have had to do since time


Now that the era of integration is well and truly upon us, there’s

nothing I enjoy more in multi-agency planning meetings, than agency

client service people’s squirming inability to cogently and concisely

justify the return on investment of their allocated budget.

Allow me to indulge in one small, escapist fantasy. Picture the scene.

Patriarchal marketer clasps his children to his bosom, while outside the

cut and thrust of the 80s gives way to the brief truce of post-

rationalisation 90s. ‘What did you do in the great marketing war,

Daddy?’ asks one of the little innocents.

And what did you do? Did you lurch from grandiose idea to grandiose

idea? Did you ever find yourself having to explain why something just

had to be shot in the Maldives?

Did you dream of the holy grail of the Next Big Idea, the one that would

brand the brand forever? Did you gnash your teeth in your sleep over the

pure simplicity of ‘Beanz Meanz Heinz’?

Or did you ignore the hurly-burly of Soho and work quietly in the

trenches, expanding your position, not through the use of blockbuster

ads, but by providing clear increases in calls or sales?

The Campaign Lifestyle report also shows that the majority of ad

executives dream of giving it all up for another career. It’s about time

someone did similar research on those below-the-line.

In the meantime, I’m going to stick my neck out and say that the results

would be radically different. I think they would show that, buoyed by a

lifebelt of information on the tangible results of our work, we are not

plagued by the same insecurities and self-doubt.

We may never get to the Maldives. But we have something far more

valuable. Our sanity.

Simon Dalby is the business development director of WWAV Rapp Collins


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