What’s wrong with the advertising business?

This documentary about the ad business provides an interesting perspective on the state of the business through the eyes of a creative director.

I still remember the day I got my first job in the advertising. I was absolutely thrilled. Over the next 30 years in the business I loved my job(s), the scintillating ‘ups’ and the crushing ‘downs’ alike. It was intoxicating.

But over those years and still today, I hear the same issues rearing their heads again and again like a broken record. Staff burnout. Fear of clients. High staff turnover. Creative disaffection. Gloomy predictions about the future. And of course, is it better to work for a creative boutique or big network?

So it was with interest that I watched a documentary about the industry through the eyes of Anouk Jans, a young Creative Director looking for answers, positive change and a brighter future for herself and everyone that loves the business of creativity. I certainly include myself in the latter.

According to the producers; ‘Kill your Darlings’ “takes you on beautiful journey into the mesmerizing world of modern advertising – giving you a chance to meet the outstanding creatives, clients and experts shaping the future of our industry …”. This includes interviews with an impressive series of marketeers, agency folks and academics.

Some of the highlights from my viewing can be summed up with the following quotes about the future of working in agencies;

“The best surfer in the world can surf really well on mediocre waves. So the best are always do fine. It’s the people who are average that will have a difficult time”.

Scott Galloway – Professor of Marketing NYU/Stern

“Fear was a driving force in advertising. Afraid of losing a client. Afraid of saying the wrong thing”.

Greg Hahn. Mischief USA

“We don’t take on clients we don’t like as people”.

Greg Hahn. Mischief USA

“As a client, all I care about is I want the best brains on my business. I don’t care where the ideas come from”.

Jessica Spence – President of Brands, Beam Suntory

“If you’re at a company that says, ‘we care more about winning clients than the impact of our work’ then you can’t be asking yourself questions like ‘why do I always get shit briefs?'”

Nils Leonard. Founder, Uncommon London
Why it matters

For some interesting insights into current sentiments, it is worth reading the comments posted below the video on YouTube. These are folks directly affected by the current state of affairs. Their opinions matter.

agency-brand relationship evaluation

At Aprais, relationships between agencies and their clients are valuable, delicate things that need constant attention. Staff churn means new teams form and disintegrate rapidly. A regular, disciplined method of reviewing and course correcting business relationships, just like personal relationships is a healthy thign to do.

Happier teams are more productive and less likely to burn out. Check out our report on how evaluations improve team performance.

The future of the advertising business

Love it or loathe it one thing is for sure, the advertising business will be with us for a long, long time. Both big agencies and small. Inevitably, the business will have to evolve both in terms of the services it offers and the skills it demands.

Just as it has done since I started my first job and decades before that. Remember Mad Men?