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

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.



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.