Advertising agencies need to walk the walk

Ad agencies: walk the walk

Advertising Agencies: terrible at advertising.

Which might seem like an odd thing for an ad agency CEO to say, but it’s true. We suck at it: when it comes to our own brands, at least.

Because here’s the untold secret about agencies: we’re brilliant at telling, and utterly terrible at doing. There’s nothing we dread more than being asked, ‘Ok - if it was your money, what would you do?’ Because it’s not our money. It’s never our money. That’s kind of the point.

But perhaps it shouldn’t be. Of course, it’s incredibly useful to have an outside, impartial, (relatively) disinterested voice when it comes to your marketing. If we all worried about every pound spent as if it were our own, we quickly end up in a world where nobody spends any pounds, and nobody loses.

The fact is, if agencies were as laissez-faire with their clients’ brands as they are with their own, they pretty soon wouldn’t have any clients. We’ll happily spend months thrashing out a brand essence, a brand mission, a brand vision, a brand purpose, and some pillars to support the whole birds-nest of an edifice; and, obviously, another similar period working out exactly how, where, and when you should be communicating to support that; but when it comes to our own communications, a functioning website, a few beers with Campaign, and a half-decent Christmas card (‘ooh, could it be digital?’) tend to do the trick.

Well, maybe that’s not enough. John Hegarty famously said that it wasn’t until he launched his own wine that he really understood why clients kept asking him to make the logo bigger - so perhaps clients should be asking agencies to demonstrate that they believe in the value of what they’re saying; to put their money where their mouth is. At Creature, we’ve just sponsored Watford Ladies FC: we’ve spent the last two years banging on to our clients about how massive an opportunity women’s football is, and when the opportunity to get involved with the women at Kings Langley came along, it would have been hypocritical to ignore it, or to try to pass it along.

We don’t want to be an agency that’s famous for saying; we want to be a business that’s renowned for doing; and we want our clients to trust us when we say that they should, not just because we really believe it, but because, if it was our money, we genuinely would.

And so we have.

We lost our first game of the season last Sunday. (We hate you, Millwall, whether you care or not.) But it’s a long season, and Watford will win, and we think there’s an enormous value in doing something that other agencies wouldn’t even think about doing.

So, next time we tell our clients something similar, I hope they’ll find it a little harder to argue. Enough of the agencies that say: bring on the agencies that do.

Dan is CEO and founder of Creature of London. Follow him @creature_dan