On Douchenozzle Patrol

Advertising prima donnas are such pricks.

Here are two unrelated situations that support my premise…

First, there’s a new study from consultancy Hoyt & Co. and marketing magazine The Hub that points to some serious cluelessness.

According to Media Daily News, Hoyt and Hub polled 30 major marketers, including Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Kimberly-Clark and ConAgra, as well as more than 50 advertising and shopper agencies combined.

Marketers polled for the study slammed brand agencies for not really caring about the shopper marketing sector or taking the time to learn it. Ninety percent of the marketers cited “lack of interest” on the part of brand agencies with regard to shopper marketing. Ninety-six percent of the marketers polled said they believed their brand agencies embraced the attitude that “we are strategic and you are not” in regard to shopper marketing firms and other so-called below-the-line type services.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s no secret that people who see themselves as “makers of TV” and “guardians of the culture” want little to do with “the audience.” These advertising auteurs certainly do not want to “touch” said audience, a.k.a. customers, at the point-of-sale or anywhere else, for that matter. That’s what sales is for.

Naturally, the arrogance embedded in this attitude pollutes the entire area with an acrid stench. After all, “the Mrs. Stouffer’s shopper” in Peoria and beyond is the client’s daily bread, and by extension, the agency’s. But creative people on the account don’t think like that, do they? No, they concern themselves purely with the brand-sponsored artistic statement they’re about to make.

Okay, let’s jump now to the second supporting point. I said advertising prima donnas are such pricks and I want to leave no doubt.

My friend Bob Hoffman of Hoffman/Lewis is being honored tonight as “Ad Person of the Year” by the San Francisco chapter of the American Advertising Federation. I’m sure Bob’s polishing up his speech, but what, if anything, might he say about the pack of anonymous critics on The San Francisco Egotist? They have a less honorary point of view to share regarding Bob and his agency.

The criticism boils down to Bob not understanding digital at all, nor wanting to learn–a fact that makes his blog full of anti-digital rants tough to take. Plus, the work Hoffman/Lewis turns in for McDonald’s and Toyota doesn’t light up the screen like work from some of the better shops in town.

Bob’s a tough New Yorker. I believe the words will sting a bit–he is also human–but then they’ll lose whatever bite they had. Whatever you think about Hoffman/Lewis’ portfolio, or Bob’s rage against the digital machine, there’s still plenty to honor in a man who writes well, is pleasant to be around and who also happens to employ 100 well paid people, who themselves may be quite grateful for Bob’s contributions.

The common thread here is how corrosive agency culture is.

We’ve all been there, right? Perhaps you are there now. Perhaps you are about to throw a fit? Or worse, you might be stuck in one of those “I can’t speak my truth in this environment (without it costing me dearly)” binds. I feel for you, and I feel for me, for I too continue to do the agency dance, not as a staffer, but my contractor status does not shield me from the underlying reality–that we’re operating in a highly competitive, cutthroat habitat, with our backs up. That we are often afraid that we will never be properly recognized or rewarded for the generous talents we possess.

With even the tiniest bit of perspective, it would be easy to see that it’s just advertising. And if it’s just advertising, why stress? Why work until 10 p.m.? Why leave anonymous vents on blogs? Why insist that you are better, smarter and more deserving than the other guy?

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 now head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.