People Who Live And Breathe The Client’s Brand, Often Fail To Service Their Own

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Matthew Creamer of Ad Age sees lessons in agency branding in the 4th season of Mad Men, which wrapped up on AMC last night.
He also sees a growing need for such branding from an industry that truly has no excuse.

These days, an agency is both blessed and cursed by what feels like an endless array of communications channels into which it can insert its brand. There’s all that older stuff, plus corporate websites, blogs and, sexiest of all these days, social-media channels like Twitter and Facebook. The practice of telling an agency’s story has become an always-on, 24-7 process that stacks up next to all those other always-on, 24-7 processes that are also pretty important — like servicing clients.
But aside from finding the time required to do this volume of work, this should be easy for companies that are in the business of telling brand stories, right? I can tell you … fewer than you’d think have figured it out. Some let their work for clients do the talking. Few take stands, despite the fact that there’s no shortage of issues to rally for or against: diversity, agency compensation, ownership of ideas. And social media hasn’t made it any better. Too often, Twitter accounts devolve into idle patter about not much of anything other than using social media. As for the offenders, you know who you are — I think.

Creamer’s last line is funny to me. Of course, the offenders have NO IDEA who they are. Neither do the people responsible for making visual pollution, not advertising, know who they are. Part of what it means to be a hack is to have no idea about quality, especially as it relates to your own output.
At any rate, there are agencies who care deeply about their own brand and find the resources necessary to take care of it in today’s hyper-connected media environment. We can all make a short list, for the agency brands that put something special in their “brand” are easy to spot. I’ll just name one–Red Tettemer in Philadelphia–and let you fill in the list.

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About David Burn

Native Nebraskan seeking the perfect pale ale in the Pacific Northwest. Copywriter and brand strategist at Bonehook. Co-founder and editor of AdPulp.

  • http://adpulp.com Not Don Draper

    You wrote: Of course, the offenders have NO IDEA who they are. Neither do the people responsible for making visual pollution, not advertising, know who they are. Part of what it means to be a hack is to have no idea about quality, especially as it relates to your own output.
    This remains one of the biggest issues in our industry. To go back to Mad Men, until Draper won a Clio this season, his agency really was hackneyed. Remember, in earlier seasons, Draper sniffed at the efforts of Doyle Dane Bernbach, and he often took a “the only important thing is sales” stance regarding creativity.
    Regarding agencies’ inability to brand themselves, there are a few things at play here. First, we’ve traditionally been awful at promoting ourselves. Second, the global networks have created a certain generic quality for agencies—and it doesn’t help when executives are so nomadic. Connected to this, agencies—especially the big ones—seem unwilling to assign the proper resources and funding for such efforts. We’re quick to tell clients that they must spend a certain amount and allocate certain resources, but when it comes to self-promotion, we don’t spend the dollars or allocate the right resources. In many ways, the holding companies won’t let the shops spend any money that isn’t directly tied to billable hours.

  • http://www.adpulp.com/ David Burn

    @HighJive – Speaking of Mad Men and hacks, it’s interesting how this season Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce “had to” hire a hack copywriter due to his family connection to Sterling and Draper’s drunken mistakes. Of course, he was let go in the downsizing, but still.
    Why would this matter to me, or to anyone in the business today? Because hacks are not delegated to the minors in this business. Some of them even have extremely plush corner offices and their name on the door.