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July 13, 2006

Masochism, Anyone?

Our agency network is having its annual senior management meeting up here in Quebec.  This morning's keynote speaker was Bob Garfield.  Somebody asked him what was the worst TV spot he'd ever seen.  The one he most enjoyed flaying in his Advertising Age column.

Garfield said, "Over the years, the worst ads I've ever seen have not been ones I just happened across while watching television.  The worst spots have consistently been the ones that agencies sent to me, accompanied with a glowing press release about this exciting new campaign."

So what is it, do you think?  As agencies, when we give birth to a toad, can't we see all the warts?  Do we know the new spot's a piece of sludge, but hope that Garfield will have taken his dumb-down pills on the day he views it?  Do we secretly crave a little national humiliation now and then?  Do we sometimes just drink too much of our own Kool-Aid?  Or what?

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I think the worst broadcast spot I've ever seen is for HeadOn: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Is3icfcbmbs

[long time lurker, first time commenter... hooray!]

The entire Advertising industry needs an enema.

In short, the major issue is that agencies have lost sight of what's ultimately most important: their client's success. Achieving this requires in-depth and thoughtful market research, something agencies place nearly no emphasis on whatsoever.

Instead, the overwhelming majority of agencies have become little more than design houses wherein excited, egomaniacal children, driven by an overwhelming sense of totally undeserved self-importance, run amuck with the client's checkbook fulfilling their own fantasies.

And what have we witnessed as a result of this sugar-high inspired spending spree? A plethora of the most beautiful failures imaginable. For evidence of this, you need only surf the astounding number of blogs that focus upon the complete failure of agencies to effectively communicate on behalf of their clients.

It’s not the Kool-Aid, per se. Rather, they’re plagued by the same problems as universities and family-owned business: their insular and self-referential frame of mind.

Hey, if there's gonna be mandatory enemas, I'm outta here. That was not in my contract!

There's certainly an "insular and self-referential" aspect to some work but I think agencies send Garfield "pieces of sludge" for the same reason sludge gets produced -- because some people just don't know any better. I like to think that the creative teams recognize sludginess. But maybe for the rest of the account team and agency, the quality factor doesn't figure into it. It's not that they're stupid -- they're obviously far from it. It's just that they can't, for whatever reason, evaluate this work. All they know is it's TV (TV!) and it'll run during Idol and OMG! OMG! that's just so huge! And since there's a lot of pressure at most agencies to constantly self-promote, it gets sent to everyone including Garfield. Who does know better.

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