Hi there. I hope you’re enjoying the podcasts.
Sorry if you’re missing the old posts, but there’s only so many hours in a day.
Having said that, I recently felt that old itch of yesteryear (2016) and was overcome by the urge to slap down 765 words about some aspect of advertising that has recently piqued my interest.
I was listening to Dave Dye’s excellent interview with Peter Souter when I heard something that made a huge amount of sense:
Peter had been to lunch with Trevor Beattie, who had explained one of the reasons why advertising ain’t what it used to be:
Peter, quoting Trevor: “Peter, when you left (advertising) the client would say ‘We need a wrap for the Grocer (that’s a wraparound ad for the outside of the Grocer magazine, I think)’. Now they’ll say ‘We need a wrap for the grocer, but we also need to know what the Twitter feed is like. And how does it work on the website? And what would you do if there was a digital film to go with it? And you have to do these eight things that go around the wrap for the Grocer and at the end of it all you also have to do the wrap for the Grocer. So you have to do eight times as much work, and inevitably if you have eight times as much work you’ve got to have so many more people, which means they’ve all got to be really young and really terribly paid. And they will also hardly get to make anything.”
Now, I spent the first 3-4 years of my time at MAL working for a client that had barely any interest in digital advertising. I think the theory was that there was so much Apple talk in the digital space that there was no real need to spend a lot of time and money jumping in there too.
(Having said that, when they did it, they did it better than anyone else:)
So I had a gap of a few years where I didn’t have to engage in the pros and cons of what Peter/Trevor described (Apple now does plenty of excellent digital advertising).
But this consequence of multiplying your output by eight for each of your clients, and the way that causes you to structure your staffing, is a BIG (relatively) NEW THING to deal with.
Let’s say eight juniors cost 20k each (no idea how accurate that is these days, but I hope I’m erring on the lower side). That’s 160k in salary that you’re obviously not spending on one very experienced, high quality 160k team, or two 80k teams. And that leads to the much lamented trading of relatively expensive seasoned professionalism for relatively cheap lack thereof. And I know clients aren’t paying 8x their previous fee, so they’re not financing extra staff, so that tradeoff means fewer seniors in the business, fewer people to pass on their skills, generally lower quality, a lot of attention and resources on things that are unlikely ever to be good enough to make a creative’s name, and the vicious circle that happens as a result.
And of course the business generally becomes less attractive to enter. If you have 8x more unattractive briefs to offer the department, that will swamp the good stuff, leaving a much smaller proportion of good opportunities for someone who wants to get ahead, or wants to have the fun and experience of making something. It’s like a new lucky dip with fewer Creme eggs and more dog eggs.
I think I’ve written before about why we’re here and all that, but the real question is: will it ever change, and how?
Peter goes on to make the very good point that things were shit just before Bill Bernbach turned up and made advertising great in a way that was powerful enough to travel the world and last for decades.
I would argue that it will take something as paradigm-shifting as Bernbach’s creative revolution to shake things up again. If we seek to make incremental changes to the status quo we’ll never really make the progress necessary for people to reevaluate what advertising could be.
As David Abbott said, quality is always possible. (He added that it’s also always under threat, but I thought that was a bit too much of a down note to end on. Oops.)