In theory, dictatorships make a lot of sense.

As governance models go, they offer efficiency, continuity and effective task completion. Dictators get things done. Democracy wastes time and money. It clunks along, swaying left and right and back to the middle.  There are too many voices, too many agendas, too many disparate perspectives which all need to be accommodated. Yet we choose this messy way of governing our society. Because we recognize the importance of all those viewpoints in creating the type of world we want to live in. What we lose in simplicity we gain in wisdom.

In theory, going back to the full-service creative agency also makes a lot of sense.

One brand guardian who can implement a clear and consistent strategy. One team without overlapping roles. One contact for the client who is clear on the brief and can take responsibility for campaign success.

In modern agency land, many of us find ourselves working on client business with a wide roster of other agencies. And it’s very messy. There are too many voices, too many competing agendas and too many disparate perspectives. We know that integration is essential, that we need to meet and collaborate – but often there isn’t the physical space for us to sit around the same boardroom table together.

Add into this heated mix a very real competition. Each agency partner in today’s scenario has a business reality. Their survival hinges on the client shepherding a portion of the marketing budget in their direction. Cooperation is essential, as long as it’s not at the expense of your company.  In a full service model, people may have different specialties, but when it comes down to it, they’re all playing for the same team. In theory, you should get the best of both worlds with full-service – specialist expertise, coordinated by a central leader.

In practice, the best work is emerging from much messier setups. And my money is on a marketing future, which will continue to be messy.

Just like the brand world, which is no longer tightly created and controlled. Or the content world, where the old gatekeepers have been turned upside down by the Internet. The advertising industry finds itself in circumstances, which require innovation, specialization and an openness to adapt.

And if this is the case, we need to start thinking practically about how it’s all going to work. We need answers to these questions:

How can marketers develop a sense of shared purpose and vision across a wide spectrum of agency partners?

How can marketers mine all the talent and ideas from their agencies, and ensure they’re tapping into the best thinking each agency has to offer?

And most crucially, how can we create a remuneration structure, which makes it advantageous for agencies to cooperate rather than compete?




How clever…36 women dressed in orange Bavaria dresses close to TV cameras in the Netherlands v Denmark World Cup game.

I have a funny feeling that a lot of the influential’s blog activity in the next few weeks will be World Cup related…

So here goes another one.

I’m always a supporter of the underdog, and luckily so, because, I pulled Paraguay out of the hat in the €5 work sweepstakes. And they drew with Italy on Monday so you never know! Believe it and it will happen…

The big brand sponsors/partners of the Fifa World Cup include Budweiser, Mc Donalds, Adidas, Visa and about 15 others. And they pay very highly for the privilege.

So this year, Fifa are acting uber strict and clamping down on unofficial advertisers who try to forge an association with the games without forking out the cash.

Bavaria, for example, the underdogs in advertising spend terms, embarked on a very clever guerrilla marketing campaign this week. 36 camera friendly, nicely positioned women dressed in Bavaria branded orange dresses were kicked out of one of the World Cup stadiums during the Netherlands V Denmark game.

Fifa are considering legal action against the dutch brand for stealing the limelight from their official beer partner. But it may be too late as the marketing teams work is done. The cameras captured the image, word is out there, and we are talking more about Bavaria than we are Budweiser. And all for a very very small point zero zero percent of the price.

It’s a thin line though – what about advertisers who run promobikes outside GAA games? What about food brands that sample outside Taste of Dublin?? What about Flashmobs that dance in Dundrum town centre? And what about Walkers current ‘Flavour World Cup’ campaign?

I support the clever ambushers. Most advertisers don’t have massive sponsorship budgets so we need to think smartly about what we can do to generate interest and word or mouth. And more and more often these days, this interest is surrounding events and capitalising on these…

Meanwhile Paraguay play Slovakia on Sunday. Fingers crossed!


The World Cup

June 15, 2010


david beckham

How easily stars are made, and how quickly they fall.

World championships, Olympics, World Cups, these events all create heroes. All the key ingredients are there; massive excitement, young, good looking people and superhuman feats of skill and strength. Think Jonny Wilkinson, Rugby World Cup 2003, think Usain Bolt at the 2008 Olympic Games. But then, think David Beckham, World Cup 1998.

Heroes and pariahs.

So, who will win out this year? And what will it mean for their sponsors? Attaching themselves to sports stars is one of the few ways that ‘male’ brands can use celebrities. But in this year’s World cup, who knows which one of these players will surpass themselves, or humiliate themselves, or be sent off following a moment of madness?

So, it makes you wonder; in a world where every cent, penny and yen of advertising spend is being scrutinised, and increasingly risk- averse brands are exerting such tight control over other elements of their communications, brands attaching  themselves, very expensively, to something that may or may not work out horribly? Well, it seems a little crazy, doesn’t it?





I’ve been having a few conversations lately on the future of agencies and in all truth, considering some pretty serious questions.

Are clients buying creative people and strategic thinking from creative agencies, but when it comes to media agencies they’re really just buying space?

Do clients actually want to buy thinking from anyone, or is that just thrown in as a cherry on top, because they’ve commissioned a TV Ad or some media space?

Are most clients longing for a return to the full service agency, as Tim debated last week?

And most serious of all, when above-the-line advertising spend is the first part of a marketeer’s budget to be cut, has the business community lost faith in the power of advertising, full stop?

Part of the problem is our own behaviour. Increasingly, I’m seeing agency people tiptoe around their clients. We don’t want to lose the business. We don’t want to appear difficult or challenging. We don’t want to rock the boat.

From a survival perspective,  it’s not a smart strategy to go out there on a limb, when everyone else is happy with the status quo. It’s lonely out there on your own.

Except often the status quo just isn’t good enough. It doesn’t lead to excellent work.  It doesn’t push through innovation. It doesn’t take risks but it doesn’t reap the rewards either. And without these extraordinary rewards, is it any wonder that the business community isn’t seeing how advertising is positively impacting on their bottom line.

As experts in our field, we have a responsibility to be confident and to stand up for the work. If nothing else, the mere future of our industry depends on it.


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