Why Ad Agencies Don't Advertise

By Stevens, Mark | Chief Executive (U.S.), June 2005 | Go to article overview

Why Ad Agencies Don't Advertise


Stevens, Mark, Chief Executive (U.S.)


THEIR EYES ON PRIZES, THEY KNOW THE ROI ISN'T ALWAYS THERE. BY MARK STEVENS

Have you ever wondered why advertising agencies don't advertise themselves?

The answer is clear: They really don't believe advertising works. If they did, they would be doing what they advise yon to do: spend like crazy on the assumption that the best way to dmm up new busincss is to advertise, advertise, advertise.

But, in fact, advertising doesn't always do what it is supposed to do, and, equally important, there is rarely a measurable correlation between the money spent and the results it generates. Return on investment rarely even enters the discussion.

Millions or billions of dollars go down the drain with a mind-set that allows for the willing suspension of disbelief-that somehow those commercials will promote sales of your products and services. But hope doesn't justify your approval of any other corporate expenditure, so why should it with advertising?

It may be that you think advertising is creative and you're not the ideal person to nix the creative process. After all, advertising is a pemianent fixture on the P&L statement. It's there because it always has been there, not subject to reevaluation of whether it's the best way to spend your dollars.

The ad guys will tell you they are your business partners. They say they are in this game to drive your company's revenues. But, in most cases, that's nonsense. The great agency pioneers like David Ogilvy did function as business partners, but those days are long gone. Today, most agencies are creative shops that focus not on business results but rather on the creative awards that are the Oscars of their industry.

Is there anything wrong with an advertising agency that seeks to be honored by its peers for its creative work? Absolutely.

You're not hiring agencies to be creative. You are hiring them to be catalysts for sales. Whether that takes creativity doesn't-or shouldn't-mean a whit to you, but it's everything to them.

Your company and its advertising agency are like ships passing in the night. The agency is after awards that feather its cap and command headlines in Advertising Age and the other propaganda machines of the agency business. …

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