Branding Is For Brands

There’s a certain abandon to Steffan Postaer’s writing. I like that, especially since it’s coming from deep inside the machine.
Today, the creative leader of Euro RSCG/Chicago, takes on agency mission statements and self-promo exercises. Thankfully, he does so with abandon.

Are we about ideas, client service, publicity or all of the above? In every creds piece (including ours), is some permutation of “building brands over time while selling product right away.”
Blah, blah, blah.
I need to call bullshit. With the possible exception of Crispin Porter & Bogusky, there are no agency brands. Not really. The venerable Carl Ally once said, “Clients make great agencies, not vice-versa.” More than a treatise about greatness, his statement suggests that an advertising agency is defined by its brands. For example Wieden & Kennedy is Nike. Its greatness is their greatness.

In other words, agencies needn’t bother with their own brand. Rather they need to obsess about their clients’ brands. Because agencies are their clients’ brands, for better or worse. Really makes you want to pick your clients carefully, does it not?

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. are you kidding me? wieden isn’t an agency brand? or goodby? Or chiat, or bbdo? euro certainly isn’t. or y&r. or grey. or mccann. but there are smart agency brands out there. and they’re doing quite well.

  2. This is wholly semantic, but there is a difference in meaning between the words “brand” and “company.” We’ve gone overboard with brand brand brand, when in fact what we’re describing is a company.

  3. Not so fast, Mal.
    Think about it… Are Goodby, Wieden and Chiat really brands beyond the work they’ve done? I don’t think so. If you do, define it for me. You’ll find yourself groping for platitudes like, “The agency that does good work.” You are what you eat.

  4. While I’m sure Mr. Ally was indeed grateful for the clients that made his agency a success, I’m afraid too many just use his quote as justification for being the bland, faceless institutions they are. “See? It’s not our fault we’re boring and lifeless. It’s our clients’.” To quote the old song from the old movie, “It’s what you do with what you got.” Compare Goodby’s work for any new “bad” client to that of the client’s previous agency to see this in action time and time again. Call it a company, call it a brand or just call it substance, but I think it’s a bit more common than SP admits. Maybe not in the Global Agency Network world, but then, was it ever really part of that world to begin with?

  5. wieden is the agency that hates advertising. goodby is the agency that believes advertising can be art. chiat are the pirates, not the navy. steffan needs to get out of the big, bland agency world–one where they sell such hogwash as creative business ideas–and see what it’s like to work at an agency with a strong point of view.