Advertising has become a tough job

I’m sorry to say this, but advertising is no longer the fun it once was.

Tom Dow

Every social chat I’ve had recently with either current or former advertising colleagues have been full of gloominess. For example, Tom Dow complained over lunch in Lemonia that advertising in the USA is all project work now. “This makes it impossible to build a relationship with a client any longer. You win the pitch, do the work, finish the project, and then see the client put out the next brief to pitch again.”

Julian Neuburger and Mike Townsin, both outstandingly successful media directors, deplored the lack of understanding amongst clients of what represents good value for money in media. “They just want it cheap,” said Julian as we sat in The Bleeding Heart Tavern. “We spend ridiculous amounts of time answering RFPs’ questions which are just irrelevant to the value we can generate for our clients.”

Andrew Levy, former planning director of Mustoes, told me over tapas in The Norfolk Arms that he’s retired, and that he’ll only do freelance if it’s fun, which means that he doesn’t do much freelance.

Nanette Young

And Nanette Young, managing director of Auld Scott and Company, and whose speciality is procurement, understandably takes the view that procurement is not going to go away, which she explained to me in The Prince of Wales.

I loved my time in advertising, but entirely understood when it was time to move on, and that time was 2003. I have been surprised, however, by the rate of change since then. When I left Euro RSCG, I knew several companies with marketing directors on their main boards, and I knew a lot of those marketing directors, too. Offhand, I can’t now think of any.

On 17 November, there’ll be a reunion in the Grace Bar, Great Windmill Street in London, for a bunch of former Leo Burnett colleagues. I worked for Burnett in both London and Chicago from 1979 to 1984, and I loved it. I worked on Cadbury, Memorex, Texas Instruments, Crosse and Blackwell, British Leyland and a bunch of other accounts, and I’m still friendly with several clients from that period. Because the work was enjoyable, clients and agency staff got on well with each other, which made it easy to sell and produce great work.

I’m a member of the Leo Burnett Alumni Association. It recently ran an amusing, ironic and all too true blog by Robert Fleming, who is the President/CEO of The eMarketing Association in The USA, which I have copied on to this blog. Scroll down and you’ll see it. The title is, “Social Media Has Ruined Marketing.” Has it?  He might be right. Here’s his five-point blog:

Social media has ruined marketing.

Robert Fleming

First of all I am old. How old, let’s just say I remember a time when Beatles music was not played in elevators. Therefore I remember fondly the “old days”. So I get a bit nostalgic thinking back on time when there was really just newspapers, TV, radio and direct mail as key advertising elements (ok billboards too). It was a great time here are 5 reasons why.

1. WE REALLY DIDN’T LISTEN TO CUSTOMERS – Ok we had focus groups, but we conducted a monologue with our customers. Not a dialogue. Customers couldn’t moan and groan about our poor customer service, or faulty products to the whole world. We could crush small business with the strength of budgets, not the quality of service and products. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT – Because now small business can compete on a more level playing field, and the strength of your marketing does not necessarily have to rest with the size of your budget.

2. WE COULD USE EXPENSIVE COMPELLING CREATIVE FOR MAGAZINES, DIRECT MAIL AND OTHER MEDIA – Ok, there are still magazines and newspapers, but unless you have been living in a cave you have seen them get smaller and smaller. Direct mail is down substantially from a decade ago and the USPS will be bankrupt by December, without a government bailout. magazines are on iPads. Now we have text ads (little things), tiny banners, or 140 character tweets, social groups, fans and likes. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT – Because now we have to get even more creative than ever, in the way we present our company, on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (and other Internet media). We have a smaller canvas on the Internet and therefore must get much better with our brushes.

3. WE COULD MEASURE – With Nielson, Arbitron, ABC, and so on we could get reliable numbers that had been proven for decades. Today we are bombarded with statistics, but how much is necessary to make marketing decisions. WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT – Now we need to reduce our metrics to actionable and relevant statistics, instead of just pouring over data dumps.

4. WE COULD KEEP OUR JOBS – In the old days, in order to make your numbers and keep your job, all you had to do, is what you did before. With social media looming, and new technologies and devices appearing out of thin air, we do not have the historical data to ensure success. So we have to take chances. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT – Because marketing is no longer “safe” – and the risks are higher than ever, but so are the rewards.

5. WE COULD DRINK MARTINIS AT LUNCH – Doesn’t seem like that’s being done much anymore. WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT – Because it was fun.