Commentary

Dear Agencies: Lying is Easy. Being Truthful Is More Creative

So TBWA and Nissan got in hot water with the FTC over an ad they ran in 2011 that depicted a Nissan Frontier pushing a dune buggy up a steep, sandy hill -- a feat the truck cannot actually accomplish -- cables were used. Their punishment? Don't do it again. Really? How about don't do it in the first place? Or did TBWA creatives lose all ability to...uh...be creative with nothing left to do but resort to a stupid stunt like this that was bound to be found out? Yeah -- we all want our brands to appear to be the best in their categories, and that's why the creativity of advertising agencies is leveraged to do so. But when an agency stoops to idiocy like this, it's no wonder that the public categorizes us right up there with car dealers.

I wonder. Do you think advertising agencies are eager to play a role in shaping trends, or are they satisfied with the status quo of following trends? It would seem they are stuck with the latter approach. Chasing one of the latest trends, Kickstarter and IndieGoGo-funded product launches, Fallon Minneapolis has launched Fallon Starter Kit -- qa?n offering tailored to the needs of startups that aims to fuel them with a bit more than just a really cool PowerPoint deck and a logo. The agency was inspired to create the offering when several of its creatives came to the aid of a Robbinsdale, MN restaurant, Travail, which launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new building. Of the offering, Fallon Director of Innovation Marty Wetherall said the Starter Kit "started with a sudden realization that crowd funding campaigns need everything that we do -- smart strategy, effective storytelling, community management -- and that all the coolest new ideas I was seeing were springing up on sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo." Agencies will do anything they possibly can to hang with the cool kids and trendsetters.

If it's all about content marketing these days, then why aren't more agencies doing what mainstream publishers have been doing for years -- buying up digital content startups like magazine publisher UK-based Future did with its recent acquisition of the female-focused blog network Handpicked Media? Why is the mindset of most agencies still a "buy" mentality when it comes to media rather than a "create" mentality? Hey -- they got it right with creating creative. Why can't they get it right with creating outlets for the content they should be creating for their clients?

We've known ad agencies have been bailing out on Madison Avenue (the street) for years choosing, instead, much cooler places like Brooklyn, SoHo and other Manhattan hot spots. But the Financial District? Yup. According to Business Insider, since 2005, 18 ad agencies have moved downtown. One agency is Barker DZP, which moved to swanky penthouse digs on Broad Street last fall. If we are to believe that agencies are trendsetters -- they're not, see above -- then what Droga5 CEO Sarah Thompson said after her agency took new digs in the area makes perfect sense. "As a company reliant on the ideas generated by our people, Wall Street proved the best location for those ideas to thrive. Being on the waterfront offers a unique perspective, and sharing the neighborhood with the business engines that drive the world will fuel our creativity and drive." There's already a wolf on Wall Street, Is there enough room for a bunch of trend-following, hipster wannabes?

1 comment about "Dear Agencies: Lying is Easy. Being Truthful Is More Creative".
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  1. Marty Wetherall from Fallon, January 27, 2014 at 2:33 a.m.

    Thank you for quoting me and mentioning our Fallon StarterKit initiative, but I disagree with your premise that agencies aren't trendsetters so we're "stuck" being followers. The agencies I know are creative service providers, and StarterKit is a versioning of those services for an exciting new market. On Twitter, @lukashMAYYN said that StarterKit is a "Fascinating way to launch an incubator w/o launching one," while @Mollykoernke recognized that Fallon is "shaping tomorrow's hit brands before they even happen." We thank Kickstarter and Indiegogo for building great platforms that attract ideas so we didn't have to. In the process, they've ushered in a new era where good marketing and storytelling are needed up front to inspire people to crowdfund a project. So now it's the trendsetters-to-be who are chasing after us to make them look cool.

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