Home Articles In the ad race, it's horses for courses

    In the ad race, it's horses for courses


    You’d be hard-put to win the Flemington 1,200 metre sprint riding a Clydesdale carthorse. But that’s the way some companies go about their advertising, thinking that because the solid plodder can pull a mountain of beer barrels, it must be also capable of moving nimbly. That’s silly, says Ray Beatty.

    For hard-hitting advertising and marketing, often you have to search for the lean and hungry look. The energy and creativity of the hungry young marketers.

    In my travels I get to see many the small boutique agencies. For them, there’s no such thing as a job too small to be worth the time and effort. Everything is a challenge and excellence is a fanatical creed.

    It makes me wonder why large companies don’t make more use of them. So many times I’ve seen corporations handing relatively small jobs to their official agency.

    From inside the agency would come a groan. “This job has a budget of barely a hundred thousand dollars. How can we possible make any money out of it? Better give it to our trainee team to dash something out as quickly as they can.” Whereas that same crumb would be an absolute feast to one of the small boutiques and be treated with delight and reverence.

    Most corporations have dozens of divisions. The smaller ones are run by junior executives, at the lower end of the pecking order, who tend to get smaller budgets and little praise. But they’re ambitious and determined to get the best possible work done on any task.

    Yet they have to hand the job to the official mega-agency, which sticks it on to the end of a long queue. The marketing youngster wants to see good results and is tearing his hair out with impatience while the agency sees it as just a damn nuisance that will be dealt with as soon as the important work is finished.

    I recall one of this country’s largest corporations where a divisional manager complained to me about a task.

    He called the designated agency in and briefed them on it very carefully, explaining exactly what things had to be said and outlining the criteria that had to be met.

    He then waited and waited. Six weeks later, after many furious phone calls, the agency returned with a campaign that looked very trendy and would certainly turn heads at the Art Directors’ Club, maybe even win an award next year.

    He looked at it and said, “But this is not what I asked for. You haven’t done any of the things I told you and the strategy is completely off the mark.”

    Well, of course, the agency told him that he didn’t understand the subtleties of advertising and was very out of date. Nevertheless, he briefed them again.

    Four weeks later the agency returned, and the job was still totally off the mark. “They hadn’t listened to a word I said,” he complained.

    Out of desperation, he called in a small shop that had impressed him with some print work they’d done for him, and briefed them.

    They were delighted to receive it. Within two weeks he had the finished work in hand. It was right on target, they came up with some creative ideas that hit the spot.

    “So, what if the boss takes you to task for not obeying procedure in your choice of agency,” I asked him? He replied, “By the time I’ve finished telling my boss what I’ve been through and why they can stick their procedure where the sun don’t shine, I think he’s more likely to give me a medal.”

    The point is, you’ll never separate big corporations and big agencies. As an old (cleaned-up) saying goes, elephants mate with elephants. But for the smaller jobs, there’s a much more comfortable fit when the suitor is leaner, hungrier, and more energetic.

    Ray Beatty runs MarketingSolutions, a consultancy advising companies on how to turn around their unsuccessful advertising campaigns. www.ebeatty.com