Have you ever had your account group promise the delivery of media plans every which way from Sunday so that you end up working on Sunday, after already putting in a full day on Saturday?
Well, fear not, young media professionals!
Because it isn't going to do you any good. Improvements in technology and economists' talk of improved productivity in nearly every business category has got clients from every point on the spectrum asking for more, paying less for it, and wanting it all now.
Don't think me naïve; clients have always been terribly demanding, but in the early years of my career, I remember them being demanding within reason. And usually the really painful requests were strange and nonsensical one-offs (like trying to determine the media exposure of a blimp and assign it a value). We had a couple of months to put together a very solid, thought through overall media plan. Now a-days, clients want everything custom made and they don't want to pay much for it.
It's like going up to a jukebox, putting in a quarter, and then expecting a symphony written just for you to pop out.
It would do the business community well to think hard about what improvements in productivity really mean. It is easy for everyone to think that because of the pervasiveness of technology in almost every business and its constant state of improvement that all products can be made more quickly and efficiently. But marketing and advertising are primarily knowledge and service category businesses. Improvements in technology do not make someone creative faster. They do not make me teach a client the benefits of online any faster, nor do they speed up the time it takes that client to understand. No matter how productive business becomes, one can't write a good symphony any faster than they could in Bach's time.
Clients look to agencies because the agency is supposed to be the expert. Folks at agencies have a rich mosaic of experience with a vast array of client categories, giving them holistic insight that those inside a client organization might not have. And more and more, agencies are providing more sophisticated services that go beyond simply advertising. They are becoming marketing experts and technologists and database managers and general business people.
But agencies are still often times treated like commodity vendors rather than service specialists. Given the kinds of services agencies are being required to provide to remain relevant, they have become more like doctors or lawyers than refineries.
Sales persons out there, I ask you now to be understanding of, if you don't actually take pity on, your buying brethren on the other side of the media aisle. The reason we ask you for so much in such a short period of time is because clients are asking it of us. I'm sure you understand this, but it is worth reminding you, as the ever increasing compression of time leaves us with little opportunity to reflect.
There is certainly no way that, as an industry, we will ever get to return to the days of the 3 to 6 month planning cycle (not that we ever had it with online). But all advertisers would do well to let their agencies have a little more time to produce quality work. In the long run, it will pay out.
In "Wag the Dog," Robert DeNiro's character says that a good plan today is better than a great plan tomorrow. Doing this everyday, however, means that your todays are always just good, and your tomorrows are never great. Plenty of businesses are good. To be a leader, one has to be great. And sometimes great only comes with waiting until tomorrow instead of compressing all of your time into today.