Access on Demand and the Death of the Creative Culture
Just the opposite, in fact: Nowadays we are asked to stay tuned in, at least long enough to be redirected from wherever we happen to be to a quicker purchase or service path. (There is no longer a reason to leave the couch at all - at least as long as the remote, your cell phone, or your wireless laptop is within arm's reach).
The creative agency culture has now all but surrendered to the dominant and far less tolerant spreadsheet culture of the big holding companies. Creative's traditional brand-building value in the enterprise has been sharply reduced and marginalized in the exchange. Its role nowadays -- especially in the digital channels -- is much more circumscribed.
Now and for the foreseeable future, creative will fashion the road signs and user prompts for the age of AOD (Access On Demand), a model whose prominent feature is timely delivery and satisfaction of anything we want, whenever we want it, wherever we happen to be: home, office, or road.
At the end of the day, advertisers and consumers all want AOD; advertisers want AOD for existing and potential customers, and their customers want AOD for everything else. Creative is nice within such a functional quid pro quo, but hardly necessary except to facilitate the journey or help consummate the transaction.
The age of AOD has already orphaned the agency creative culture. More and more big marketing and agency contracts are driven by client-side procurement, whose only real concerns are twofold: 1) Can you handle the volume? And 2) How much faster can you drop your pants next time we meet?
Creative doesn't even show up at the negotiating table anymore, and is negotiated only to the extent that any creative fees are almost always negotiated downwards. Creative -- the very asset that once distinguished one agency from another -- no longer matters much to clients at the end of the day, and agencies find it increasingly difficult to otherwise distinguish themselves in a world where creative doesn't matter.
Creative has been demoted to commodity status, a line item on thousands of corporate profit and losses, and most certainly -- for the foreseeable future at least -- something to outsource under appropriate circumstances. Of course outsourcing will reinforce creative's commodity status, and further champion the most cynical argument of all: price point (perhaps all that really matters when your primary objective is timely access).
New agency Banerjee & Partners deploys a network of outsourced creative teams and expertise to save clients 40 to 60 percent (or so they claim) on typical domestic creative fees. Brilliantly, they devote much of their own excellent Web site copy to the quality and exceptional pedigree of the very creative they seek to commodify. Hats off to Banerjee & Partners for a timely agency model and a great launch strategy.
(My only personal objection to outsourcing is when it combines unavoidable job loss with avoidable but frequently invoked executive malfeasance. Failed executives who walk away from the broken engagements with multimillion-dollar golden parachutes bother me -- especially if they've outsourced local jobs or otherwise terminated lots of people in the process.)
The Banerjee & Partners outsourcing model notwithstanding, the losers in the new AOD world order are clearly creative agencies and marketers. Their ability to distinguish themselves in an already overcrowded market has been highly compromised, and their internal cultures have atrophied and lost a lot of muscle memory in recent years as demand for their primary product has dwindled.
Quantity -- not quality -- is the new call to action, a concession to the insatiable demands of AOD in a world of functionally limitless bandwidth. Is it possible -- or even desirable - to reinvigorate and reinstate the creative culture as a driving force in today's marketing? What are your thoughts?
Many thanks, as always, and best to you and yours...
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