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“Awesome strategy, Ted! Next week’s meeting is gonna be killer.”

Recently, I read an essay from an anonymous source in our industry that stuck with me. (I did not save the link. My bad.) But the gist of his argument was that within marketing services companies far too many big talkers achieve more success than they deserve and, moreover, are exponentially degrading the profession. Paraphrasing further, the author observed how smooth talking, jargon-dropping, critical thinkers have become so prevalent and dominant that we’ve become a business of talkers not doers, endlessly revising briefs and tweaking PPT’s instead of producing actual work. The front end has become so bogged down by process that we are making lots of meetings and few campaigns. Which of course suits the talkers who, by endlessly analyzing and criticizing, merely create more process.

Are we having fun yet?

It goes without saying that these machinations are antithetical to the flow of any decent agency and the creative department in particular. Yet, before we go off and blame the strategists for all this hot air, it’s only fair to point out slick talkers and their myriad sins have plagued Adland since before the Mad Men era. Then one usually pointed to the evil account guy. He made lives miserable for countless sensitive creatives. “It’s not right yet. We need another round.”

Still, at least back then agencies produced work. And lots of it. So much so there were actual production departments. Now many agencies don’t even have one producer on payroll, let alone a department, opting instead to bring in the occasional freelancer for the role or, more typically, leaving the job to hardscrabble project managers. It’s all hypothetical. Recycling stock. Fodder.

According to the author it is indeed strategy gone wild. The pandemic of verbal diarrhea is especially acute in the technology and B2B arenas, where strategists often define the marketing department. As new platforms and complicated algorithms take over Adland, it seems likely the talking will only get louder.

With less output and more input, the vicious cycle hurts everyone caught in it. Except for big talkers. Under the guise of “getting it right” they have become manifest, perpetuating their roles as agency gate-keepers.

For brilliant copy and adroit creative leadership (even if just for a goddam powerpoint), hit me up: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com/

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I just spent a couple days in the Big Easy enjoying, and by parts enduring, our company’s annual North American meeting. Myriad changes in Euro RSCG’s network meant this was the first such meeting for all of NA in many years.

Let’s start by looking at the word “network” because that’s what we are: a conglomeration of marketing services companies, some big, some small, some profitable, some not, some barely related to the business of advertising at all. Yet, here we were: a hundred or so Blackberry addicts, begrudgingly submitting to break out groups, team building exercises and the like.

Is it time to officially bury the term “ad agency?” I wish it wasn’t but I bet it is. Especially given half of our network doesn’t even make, buy or sell anything like ads. One Euro-owned company analyses data to create lists. Then sells them. Or something like that. I don’t remember on account of I was daydreaming about my upcoming shoot in South Africa.

While some of these company’s behave independently, for those that don’t (or are in the process of integrating) the ad practice remains the head of the snake. It’s where ideas come from. It’s where clients go to get them. It’s the fun part.

And nothing proves this out better than a two day stare-down of each company’s top performers. While my peers in marketing services wrestled with power points and data analytics, metrics and matrix; in my presentation, I got to show posters and films. Being the creative guy, I’m expected to be irreverent, glib and provocative. Entertainment. It’s damn near a mandate. My partner in this was a whip smart planner from the New York office. His bit was about insights and uncovering hidden gems. He poked fun at focus groups, as opposed to revering them. He got to explode marketing clichés while revealing the truth behind the lies!

I’ll say it again: The ad part is the fun part.

Show me one college graduate that imagines a life of list making or selling data. Just one. But I’ll venture thousands dream of shoots in LA, and lofts in Tribecca. Advertising is where the stylish women and fancy accents go to work. Simon, a hip young planner from Britain, lives in Soho, works on Jaguar. He’s bi-coastal. Knows a lot of people. Marketing services, on the other hand, is where your Aunt Judy toils. She can tell you what market to put door hangers but she’d rather upload photos from Rachel’s bar mitzvah.

To be fair the barriers break down on Bourbon street. We are all, as our company literature suggests, a Power of One. Aunt Judy gets up on a table and screams along with Def Leopard. Simon wins the karaoke contest. They both make out in a dark alley off the Quarter. Text each other nervously the next day.

And what about digital and direct? They were at the meeting. First of all, everybody wants digital. Digital gets to play with planners and creatives. Digital gets to play with whomever it wants. Digital is the geek who got the hot chick. Direct, however, is more like the ugly duckling who, having had a serious makeover, is suddenly capable of turning heads. Watch out for DM. She may have the last laugh. But not until someone figures out how to make a sexy video featuring envelopes.