Advertising Is A Drill, Not A Hole

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” -Theodore Levitt

Puzzling over what people at ad agencies actually do with their days (and nights), Faris Yakob advises that “it’s important to remember that advertising is a drill, not a hole.”

What he means is ad agencies may consistently output ads, but that’s not the business they’re in. Agencies are in the business of solving a brand’s marketing problems, by whatever means.

“The business of advertising remains robust for now but the business of ideas that drive business growth is evergreen,” Yakob points out.

In related news, old school JWT successfully swayed Jeff Benjamin of Crispin–one of the industries top digital dogs–to jump ship, along with Mike Geiger of Goodby. Bob Jeffrey of JWT claims, “With these appointments, JWT solidifies its position as the only agency that can deliver creativity and execution at the intersection of Silicon Alley, Madison Avenue and Hollywood.”

Did Jeffrey really need to say that? Unchecked hype is rarely persuasive, and it’s not persuasive in this case. Lots of agencies work at the intersection of media, technology and entertainment today.

Speaking of the industry-wide changes underfoot, John Winsor of Victor+Spoils in Boulder argues:

My sense is that it won’t be long be for you’ll see the big venerated agencies like Y&R, BBDO, McCann, Saatchi and JWT turn to crowdsourcing, like Ladies’ Home Journal, as they will have to change their business models radically to cope with technology driven paradigm shifts.

To recap, a modern day ad pro wants to focus on solve marketing problems, not getting lost in any particular execution, unless it’s digital. If it’s digital then the services of high-priced specialists are required, along with a distributed team of specialists that can convene and disperse at a moment’s notice.



About David Burn

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.