The “Insane Shrink.” Dysfunction abounds in Adland but that doesn’t mean we can’t help.
April 1, 2013
Last week, a team from my agency was talking with a new client in the technology space. “Onboarding,” if you’ll pardon the trendy expression. While speaking to us about her company’s robust software solutions, she confessed that her company had only adopted some of them and, in fact, in terms of reconciling her own firm’s internal IT had “a long way to go.” Among other things, she pointed to various schisms in the company, suggesting that some of her colleagues were holding on to old ideas –about IT management, transparency and corporate philosophy.
After some nervous laughter, I offered that it was much the same in Adland. We also brag about our robust solutions (boy, do we ever!) but in terms of adopting our own wisdom we, too, have a long way to go. But there is hope! In my own inimitable way I called it the “insane shrink” phenomenon. A shrink may be a total whack job but that doesn’t preclude him or her from helping other whack jobs. No offence to the psychiatric profession but I’m guessing it happens all the time.
Lord knows it’s common in our profession. It’s easy to get cynical. We talk about having an intricate process for helping clients create integrated marketing campaigns but not so deep down we all know its guesswork and hypothesis. For every case study we (or you) have proving out our process (for developing strategy and creative) another one exists that didn’t work at all. Obviously, we don’t talk about those. Moreover, our agency is likely dysfunctional around the corners. We bicker. We politicize decisions. We hold on to old ideas.
But just like our clients, we evangelize our process and tools. Unlike the client above, however, we don’t make hardware or software. We create ideas and campaigns without any possibility of a guarantee. When they fail we are removed from our duties. When they succeed we are hopefully not removed from our duties. Such is life in Adland.
However, I’m not being cynical when I call what we do “mythmaking” or “propaganda.” Creating an aspirational myth for our above client’s suite of software is the job. By her own admission her brief is aspirational as well. It’s about tomorrow not today. And I know damn well we can help.
I also think it madness to think our method is infallible.
An off kilter comparison but sick people are often the most capable of providing aid to others in need. Look at any 12-step program. Dysfunction exists. We have it in spades. But as I live and breathe so does every other group of people on earth. Trying to align groups –be it via manifesto or merely an ad campaign- takes counseling. Of course clients want guarantees. Unable to provide that we offer assurances. We provide methodology. Then, if the Gods of Advertising are willing, the magic happens.