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Coincidentally, they both ended up being about the same thing.
Steve says that ‘Most agencies are still hanging onto a very narrow range of conventional solutions.’
While Dave suggests that ‘Advertising starts with finding a way to get a result. Against often superior competition. And sometimes the answer may not be advertising at all.’
They say a lot more besides, but the general thrust of their arguments is that advertising agencies shouldn’t restrict themselves to ‘advertising’ because it may not be the best solution for a client’s problems.
That forces us advertising people to think outside our normal parameters to search for the correct solution without fretting about the fact that we aren’t making a 90″ cinema ad. It broadens the palate of available to solutions to include, well…anything, from better staff service to alternate reality gaming. Surely that’s a wonderful thing. Surely the best solution, regardless of convention, should always be our aim?
Well, absolutely. But are advertising agencies the best places to find these solutions?
It seems to me that advertising agencies are either misnamed, or need to become hybrids of all the current choices of solution discovery. Of course, almost all of them are doing just that, with companies that used to provide their clients with nothing but press, posters, TV and radio gradually branching out into t’internet, events, iPod apps, virals, movies, theatre and everywhere else you can stick a logo.
This is understandable: the original media pie is shrinking at alarming rate, so for your average ad agency diversification is a must.
But are they qualified for this? In theory, an ad agency is a building that contains a bunch of bright people intent on doing something positive for their clients. But so is a PR company, a digital media company and an event organiser. They all specialise in solutions that ad agencies now feel they ought to provide, and I imagine, like ad agencies, they are all trying to barge each other out of the way for that ever-diminishing chunk of client cash.
And it’s not restricted to agencies: I recall reading a recent interview with Claire Beale, editrix of Campaign, where she mentioned all the other things that Campaign provides as a brand (she might have referred to it as ‘extra value’). This includes, for example, the website, the blogs, the award schemes and the extra little magazines based on some theme, such as Asian Media.
And why not?
On the face of it, no reason at all. But here’s a question for all the clients out there: how do you now distinguish between the different people who are supposedly able to offer you that all-important solution when so many of them seem to be offering exactly the same thing?