Have you heard the news? Journalists are migrating to Adland to help agency personnel get off their asses and move at the fast pace of business today.
According to the The Wall Street Journal, Caitlin Francke, a former reporter for the Baltimore Sun and the Philadelphia Inquirer, is now senior vice president and director of social strategy at Publicis Kaplan Thaler. “We know as journalists that we can teach the advertising agencies to move that much faster,” Ms. Francke boasts.
I do not doubt the veracity of her claim, nor the need for it. What I do doubt is the willingness of traditional agency players to have anything to do with a newsroom operation inside their agency. Generally speaking, the people who work in advertising want things to be as cushy as possible. Not just free M&Ms during brainstorms. Ad people create wealth for gigantic companies and some may feel entitled to a ride or two on the client’s yacht. Or the agency’s yacht, as the case may be.
Investigative journalists on the other hand are happiest when turning over all the apple carts in the room and claiming that their new apple sauce is appealing. It’s a hard sell. Ad people like their apples shiny and fresh from the tree. But journalists are too busy fixing the world to be bothered by matters like apple presentation and provenance. To make matters worse, print journalists may have bad hair cuts and even shoddier wardrobes. And they work in poorly lit offices with crappy software.
The two corporate cultures are night and day. Ad people (at their worst) are a pampered lot who require lots of adulation and stupid trophies to carry on in their architecturally significant spaces lined with twenty-five-hundred dollar Macs. Journalists (at their best) are self-motivated, no-nonsense pursuers of the truth and the justice that comes from it. So, why in the world are journalists joining forces with the dark side? Is it because their jobs have vanished, or do they suddenly care about brands and the stories that reside deep within them?
Perhaps, the new content marketers want to order the most expensive sushi in America and stay at Shutters on the Beach when traveling to LA for business? But how can that be remotely possible when ad agencies are morphing into hard working newsrooms that churn out words and pictures in hours, not months? There’s no time for Shutters when you are a journalist assigned to provide real time marketing updates for a collection of Fortune 100 brands. Sorry, but Shutters is reserved for the people who make commercials for a living.
UPDATE 4/17/14: Justin Fox, executive editor of Harvard Business Review, notes in The Atlantic:
What has recently come to be called “native advertising” was a staple in the 19th century: Advertisers paid for “reading notices,” which were more or less indistinguishable from the articles alongside them. Reporters were often expected to provide “puffs” in the news pages for favored advertisers, and it was not uncommon for advertisers to give cash directly to ill-paid reporters and editors.