CEOs Not Pleased With Creative Snots Who Pack No Data

Generally speaking, clients across the board are not impressed. They want results and all ad people have to peddle is their sacrosanct creativity.

That’s the news from The Fournaise Marketing Group (c/o Warc, which interviewed more than 1,200 chief executive officers and decision makers around the world for its 2013 Global Marketing Effectiveness Program.

bitchy ad face

A full 78% of CEOs thought agencies were not performance-driven enough and did not focus enough on helping to generate the business results they expected their marketing departments to deliver.

In addition, 76% felt agencies talked too much about “creativity as the saviour” while not being able to prove or quantify it. Indeed, they believed that agencies were frequently opportunistic in claiming credit for results that could be attributed to other factors such as the product, sales force, channel or pricing.

So much suspicion fouling love and respect’s nest. Can we agree that we are all creative people? If we can agree to this basic tenet, I think we can make progress.

The truth is ad people can be aloof, disinterested and bitchy. Meanwhile, clients can be blind to basic realities, particularly as it relates to the value of their product or service in the marketplace. Bad clients can also be coarse and needlessly demanding. What we have here are two groups of highly opinionated “professionals” talking over and at each other from their respective sides of the polished Rainforest wood table.

You can blame the money involved for part of the hostility problem. If the client wasn’t “risking” millions and their own professional reputation, it wouldn’t be such a scary transaction. But it is scary, which means we must bring more empathy and compassion to the proceedings.

I think ad people would do well to bow to the pressure the client is under, and clients will absolutely get better work and results from the work, when they cop to the difficulty involved in making truly moving brand communications on a consistent basis.

[UPDATE] John Winsor of Victor & Spoils, arguing for new compensation models, notes in Harvard Business Review, “While some in the industry wish that we could remain as creative free spirits with our clients as patrons, clients are becoming so squeezed — and so focused on ROI — that that model isn’t sustainable.”

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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.