Agencies Are Elitist, Protectionist, Breed Conservatism and Stifle Creativity

Writing in The Guardian, Victors & Spoils CEO John Winsor argues that the agency system has become a closed, shrinking creative system with creative elites that are presiding over a protectionist system that breeds conservatism and stifles creativity. Explaining why that is a bad thing, Winsor writes: "The reality is that we're living in a flat world where everyone from everywhere has the same technology and, with that technology are gaining the same skills to compete with anyone else. You don't become conservative until you have something to conserve. And there are many folks in the AIC that have a lot to protect. Today, why is a 54 year old (my age) creative director or strategist worth 5X more than an up and coming talent in Brazil or Asia? Especially, when they have thousands of followers and viewers on social media platforms. In this new paradigm, shouldn't it be a meritocracy? Shouldn't the best ideas win?" Millennials rejoice?

I remember wandering the exhibit halls in Moscone and Javits during ad:tech and seeing a bunch of scantily clad women attached to one another in a giant foam suit which consisted of three 8's. Those three eights represented UK-based 888 Casino, a category which has long been banned from exhibiting at most trade shows. Well, 888 Casino is now on the hunt for an ad agency to reach not only consumers in the UK but those in the U.S. as well. Are you up for improving upon babes dressed in giant foam 8's? The brand is looking for a "high-visibility activation campaign" using TV, print and outdoor. All of this as various authorities -- CAP, BCAP and the ASA -- re-examine how the gambling industry advertises. 

I could have told you 20 years ago when agencies started unbundling their services that it wouldn't be a good thing -- and that integration or at least multidisciplinary expertise under one roof was a much better approach to marketing than spinning out every new thing like digital, social or content marketing. It's funny to see the shift in the opposite direction take place as if it were a new thing. The "integrated" agency has been around since long before most people working in advertising were out of diapers. And to see them talk about it like it's a cutting-edge thing is amusing. Although not everyone gets it. Ogilvy Chief Digital Officer Brandon Berger gets it -- and of people who question the expertise of an in-house agency digital group, tells India Times: "It's a challenge. The idea of a stand-alone digital agency is a fallacy. There's no need for one. When consumers engage, they are not looking at digital as a different channel. We can't be thinking of traditional and digital but should instead focus on helping clients sell more to more people."

Hmm. If you have anything to do with the Procter & Gamble account, you may want to duck for cover. Greenpeace has launched all out warfare against the brand as well as its agencies. The organization assaulted P&G headquarters in Cincinnati by ziplining between two buildings to hang a banner which read: "Head & Shoulders: Wipes out dandruff & rainforests." And along with parodying P&G's recent Thank You Mom by insinuating the brand's acquisition of palm oil harms orangutans, Greenpeace placed two groups of signs outside the offices of Head & Shoulders agency Saatchi & Saatchi London -- one of which read "Protect Forests" which led away from the building and "Destroy Forests," which led into the building. Cause groups. Do they keep us on our toes or annoy us to death?
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  • Havas Health Launches Giving Campaign In Remembrance of Employee Lost In Paris Massacre

    In remembrance of Havas Health Art Director Christophe Foultier who lost his life in the Paris attack November 13, the agency has launched a giving campaign in concert with #GivingTuesday that will benefit Foultier's family, his wife and two children. To date, the campaign has raised $3,816. 

    #GivingTuesday, which occurs the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, marks the traditional beginning of the holiday giving season and is designed to bring people together in the spirit of giving. In 2014, 30,000 partners around the world participated. 

    Foultier, 39, lived in the western suburb of Paris, Courbevoie and was among the 130 people killed by four men with assault rifles during the massacre at Bataclan concert hall. In addition to his career in advertising, Foultier was also a musician who played bass guitar for more than 20 years, most recently with a newly formed band called Nite Nite. Along with his best friend, Randy Fagnaud, the pair were about to complete the band's first album. 

    In an open letter to the advertising community, Havas Global CEO Donna Murphy wrote, "We stand together in support of France and our Havas Health agency in Paris in mourning Christophe Foultier, a dear member of our team who lost his life in the massacre at the Bataclan last Friday. And now we can stand together to reach out to Christophe’s wife and children and help ensure that their future is financially secure." 

    Havas agencies, along with the entire global advertising community, can participate in the #GivingTuesday initiative now through Tuesday, December 1 by heading to a website the agency created in honor of Foultier, ( On the site -- and on the donation sites the site leads to -- anyone can share memories they may have had with Christophe and make donations in support of Fortier's family.

  • Mother New York Founder Launches Retail Store

    After having founded and worked at Mother New York since 2003, Andrew Deitchman -- who left the agency in September -- has decided it is time for something different. Deitchman has launched The New Stand, a 150-square-foot shop located in the Union Square subway station in New York.

    The New Stand will sell everything from art supplies to bags to cosmetics to snacks on a rotating basis that will see new and different items populate the store on a weekly or even daily basis. Items will sell for 20 to 50% less than elsewhere because of partnerships that Deitchman has set up with brands and media companies. Some items will even be free.

    Of the setup, Co-Founder and COO Lex Kendall said: "The idea is to give people everyday conveniences by being a launch pad for brands to push product." In addition to sharing revenue on sales of items with ongoing fees, the store will have a free app that will be populated by ad-supported content from various media companies including Time as well as products from eBay.


  • In Shocking About-Face From Shiny New Object Syndrome, Agencies Shy Away From Snapchat

    In an about face that, unbelievably, has everything to do with common sense and nothing whatsoever to do with the usual agency-stye thinking when it comes to the latest and greatest social media toy, ad agencies are shying away from Snapchat.

    Ever since Snapchat launched its ad program and priced it at approximately $500,000 per ad, agencies have been skittish about making a commitment to the social network. Along with the high price tag, there has been concern over the ability of Snapchat to provide useful metrics for campaigns. That skittishness became more prevalent when Fidelity recently slashed the valuation of its stake in Snapchat by 25%.

    Even with upwards of 100 million unique visits per day, agencies and the brands they represent have said they need more concrete information about who uses the service and the ability to better measure campaign success.

    Of the concern over Snapchat's measurement and targeting capabilities, RAIN COO Nick Godfrey told Reuters: "If Snapchat doesn't get that figured out, they're in trouble."

    Sydney Williams, manager of social media marketing for General Electric, which just signed a deal with Snapchat for its second campaign, said: "I'm looking forward to Snapchat coming out with a little more in-depth analytics." 

    Early this year, Toyota ran a campaign with Snapchat but isn't sure it will continue citing (according to a representative who wished to remain anonymous) the networks inability to provide better targeting capabilities.  

    However, even though a recent Coke campaign on Snapchat saw 75% of users skip the ad after three seconds, Coca-Cola North America Senior VP of Content Emmanuel Seuge said: "Snapchat has earned a seat at the table in terms of the options that we look at for consumer engagement. 

    While the company has raised $1.2 billion from investors and is said to be valued at $16 billion, it lost $128 million in the first 11 months of 2014 according to a leaked financial statement and, during the same time period, had $3.1 million in revenue. Snapchat did not launch its advertising program until October of 2014. Re/code estimates Snapchat could hit $50 million in revenue by the end of 2015.

  • Saatchi & Saatchi Earns Perfect Score In LGBT Workplace Equality Study

    Saatchi & Saatchi LA, Saatchi & Saatchi New York and Team One received perfect scores of 100 percent on the 2016 Corporate Equality Index, a national benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality which is conducted by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation. The three agencies join the ranks of 407 major U.S. businesses that also earned top marks this year. 

    Of the perfect score, Saatchi & Saatchi Executive Director of Talent Kirk Guthrie said: “We are honored to be added to the HRC Equality Index and proud to serve as yet another face of equality in the workplace. Diversity, Inclusion, and a genuine belief in equality are core to who we are and a valuable part of what drives great creative work for our clients.”   

    The 2016 study rated 1,027 businesses in the report, which evaluates LGBT-related policies and practices including non-discrimination workplace protections, domestic partner benefits, transgender-inclusive health care benefits, competency programs, and public engagement with the LGBT community. Saatchi & Saatchi’s score in the study earned the agency the designation as a Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality. 

    Other agencies/marketing firms obtaining a perfect sore were DigitasLBi, Interpublic, Leo Burnett, MSLGROUP, Ogilvy, Razorfish, Re-Sources, Starcom and ZenithOptimedia.

  • Redditor Thinks Every Agency Should Have An 'Office Pervert' to Identify Sexual Innuendo In Work

    In the Shower Thought subreddit, Narokkurai posted: "Every ad agency should have an 'office pervert,' a boorish slob whose sole job is to review every pitch and find every innuendo/offensive subtext he can." 

    To other redditors who thought he was joking, Narokkurai clarified by writing: "No no no, this is to AVOID the penis. The Office Pervert is a specially trained operative, a man who can find a penis-shaped needle in a haystack, so the art department can correct it before it goes out to the public." 

    In a way, Narokkurai has a solid point. Far too much work seems to escape the common sense review process and not just for reasons of sexual innuendo of offensive language. Of course, it's also hard to contend with rampant -- but ever so faux -- social media "outrage" which often turns a seemingly innocuous ad into a poster child some egregious offense. In other words, there is always someone out there who will be offended by whatever is created no matter how harmless it may seem at the time of creation. 

    That said, it really would behoove an agency to instill a bit of common sense into the process to minimize the chance of turning the brands they work for into idiotic, insensitive dolts who are then ravaged by trolls who have nothing better to do than to sit around in their underwear and trash whatever crosses their screen. 

    As much as this function is needed, it's quite clear no one would pine for the job title of Office Pervert. Even if, deep down, they are one.

  • Former McKinney And TBWA Creatives Join Publicis Seattle

    The Seattle outpost of Publicis has hired a new creative team. Joining the agency are James McKenna and Mathew Trego. The team will be assigned the T-Mobile account. 

    McKenna comes to Publicis Seattle after a period of freelance work and two years as creative director with TBWA\Chiat\Day where he worked on Google, Disney, Grey Goose, Jimmy Dean and Reebok. 

    Trego joins Publicis from McKinney where he was associate creative director on Travelocity, ESPN, Mizuno Golf and Sherwin Williams. Prior to his six years with McKinney, Trego spent three years with Eleven Inc. working on Apple, Callaway and the Oakland A's. 

  • Minneapolis Ad Agencies Band Together For Pat Fallon Tribute Ad

    As you have undoubtedly heard, Minneapolis ad man Pat Fallon died last week. In honor of Fallon, former Fallon staffer and current partner at GdB Doug deGrood created a tribute ad that appeared as a full-page ad in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on Wednesday. But deGrood did much more than simply create a tribute ad. 

    deGrood, along with several other co-workers, went much further reaching out to the Minneapolis ad community asking for their participation in the ad. Over 40 agencies participated. 

    The ad contains the logo of all the businesses that participated along with the copy, "While any other day we might be business adversaries, today, we the members of the Twin Cities advertising community are united in expressing our gratitude to a man who literally changed the face of Minneapolis advertising. And on whose shoulders countless individuals have built their careers." 

    Of his efforts reaching out to the ad community, deGrood told me: "The conversations were very short, because it took people all of a nanosecond to say, 'Damn right, we want to be part of this!' And that was when everyone thought we were going to have to pay for the space. The Star Trib later graciously comped it. Classy move. Not sure they want their other advertisers knowing that though!" 

    You can see the ad here

    Well done, sir!

  • While Pepsi Trashed Its Procurement Department, The Majority of Brands Will Not Do the Same

    Last week Pepsi made news announcing it would get rid of its procurement department and hand that role to the marketing departments of individual brands. While many noted the move was a positive one, most brands -- according to a recent Association of National Advertisers study -- will not be dropping their procurement departments. 

    The study posed the following question to 148 of its members: “PepsiCo has eliminated its marketing procurement department, saying moving the function to brand teams will allow it to be ‘more efficient and effective.’ Do you think PepsiCo’s move is indicative of a wider industry trend toward the elimination of marketing procurement departments?” 

    Of the 148 respondents, 68 percent said they do not believe this will become a trend, 15 percent said it would and 17 percent said they did not know. 

    Several reasons were given by respondents explaining why they thought widespread dismantling of procurement departments will not occur:

    • Marketing/brand teams do not have the skill sets of marketing procurement. Procurement has expertise in areas including negotiation, contracting, supplier management, and risk management.
    • If marketing was required to do the work of procurement, it would be time-consuming and distracting. The role of marketing procurement is to bring value and efficiency to allow marketers to focus on marketing. If marketing teams are responsible for procurement, they risk becoming less effective.
    • There’s value in procurement acting as a neutral third party.

    While the findings do suggest there will not be widespread dismantling of procurement departments, another study, also from the ANA, found that just 47% of brands see value in procurement departments. In other words, no one likes procurement but everyone realizes they're stuck with it. 

    And if there were any doubt as to where the ANA stands on this issue, ANA EVP Bill Duggan said: “Procurement can still bring significant value to marketing. Procurement provides expertise in areas that are beyond the skill sets of most marketers. That allows marketers to do what they do best: marketing! At the vast majority of ANA member companies, marketing procurement is not going away.” 

    Long live red tape and bureaucracy!


  • Joe Erwin Bids Farewell To Erwin Penland After 30 Years

    On Monday, founder of Greenville ad agency Erwin Penland, Joe Erwin, announced his retirement. Erwin launched the agency in 1986 with his wife and one account. Since that time the agency has grown to 1,000 employees with offices in Greenville and New York.

    In a note to staff announcing his retirement, Erwin wrote: "While this might seem sudden to many of you, the fact is that Allen (Bosworth, the agency's COO) and I have been talking about succession planning for well over a year. I love Erwin Penland and what we have done for more than 29 years -- a place that began so humbly with a team of just three, where we believed that anything was possible. ... My heart will always be with Erwin Penland, and I will always stand ready to help the agency."

    Erwin plans to refocus his energies toward education continuing to work on Food For Thought, a nutrition and health conference he and his wife launched as well as on the Erwin Center for Brand Communications at Clemson University.

    Erwin closed his note, writing: "This arena is where I will focus even more energy. Beyond my work at Clemson, I will be looking at other opportunities where my energy as a creator might be helpful to others. So in closing, let me just say thank you for allowing me to work for you. It has been an honor and a privilege."

    The agency was acquired by IPG's Hill Holliday in 2004.

  • After Chastising Leo Burnett Sydney Over Its New 'Five White Guys' Creative Team, Freelancer Told She Won't Be Hired

    A little while ago, Leo Burnett Sydney hired 5 new creatives. All of them were men. The agency promoted the hires with a very bro-like picture. The agency was then roundly chastised for its seeming disregard for the fact that there are women creatives who exist who can be hired by agencies. 

    Upon seeing this announcement, former BBH US Founder and champion of equality in advertising Cindy Gallop tweeted to the agency, "It's 2015. What the f*ck were you thinking?" as well as pointing out this creative department bromance has many riled up.  

    PepsiCo Global Beverages President Brad Jakeman chimed in, tweeting: "Leo Burnett Sydney needs adult supervision given how they are handling this." 

    Leo Burnett Sydney CEO Peter Bosilkovski defended the hires, saying: "None of these people were hired because of their specific gender, race or nationality. They were hired because they are the best. 

    It's now being reported that a Leo Burnett Sydney staff member at the agency threatened a freelancer, saying that she would not be hired because she shared a Daily Mail news story on Facebook about the incident along with the message, “Leo Burnett’s in the media for being a boy's club #sexdiscrimination.” 

    Following that post, the Leo Burnett Sydney staff member posted on the freelancer's Facebook page, “We almost called you about some work today. But since you bad mouthed us without any knowledge of the female quota in the agency, we will think again. #burnthosebridges.” 


    The freelancer shot back, writing: “That’s an outrageous thing to say. If there’s been a misinterpretation, please correct the record.” 

    The exchange, became even more heated and has since been deleted from Facebook though images of the conversation can be seen on Mumbrella though the names have been blurred out. 

    Bosilkovski also defended the staffers attack on the freelancer calling the exchange an "emotional response."  

    In a statement, Bosilkovski said, “Understandably, this has also created a large emotional response. The recent posts on social media are emotional responses by one employee, and do not reflect the views of management of the company, or a company policy of any kind. We have spoken to both our employee and the contractor regarding this issue to resolve it.” 

    Leo Burnett Sydney has reached out to the freelancer to see if fences can be mended but the two parties have not yet connected. 

    I mean really. Like Cindy said, it is 2015, right? 

    WTF, Leo Burnett Sydney?

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