Friday, March 31, 2006

My first Marketing Awards (Pam)

Not being one of the cool kids, I approached my first ever Marketing Awards Gala as an anthropological excursion. I've spent the last decade working in direct marketing, so I don't know a whole lot of advertising agency types. It's like going to a wedding and knowing only the happy couple.

What a fantastically weird evening.

Awesome venue, the Liberty Grand. There was a smoking room. Very civilized.

Finding food was a bit perilous. Like trying to fight a bunch of fat kids for the last Smartie. I did come away with a martini glass filled with Sunday dinner -- a carrot, mashed spuds and roast beef. Oddly cool. I saw servers walking around with paper cups filled with what looked like brown Special K. I passed.

The manner of dress varied wildly, from Holt's chic to same-thing-I-wore-yesterday-and-slept-in-it-too. It was a contest of cool. I lost. If only I'd try harder at these things. I'm a fashion tragedy.

I was quite surprised by the ceremony itself. Although it was very slick looking, so well put together, I couldn't hear it. People were talking...loudly. What's up with that?

Maybe this rudeness was a big passive/aggressive "up yours" to those same five agencies that seem to win everything every single year. I dunno, but it's not cool. I mean really, aren't we there to pay homage to the art? To give some credit where it's due? To lay some love on the people who, through their genius, make all of us involved in the profession look good? Can we not shut up for just one hour?

In order to hear the show, I was forced to cup my hand around my ear. It's not a good look and I resent being forced to resort to it. It contributed to my failure in the contest of cool.

Now, about those same five agencies. The Big Five Creative Shops. As I watched the same few people go back and forth between the dais and their seats, I had a thought.

This award show is about the power of brands -- agency brands. Could it be that these same five agencies win all the awards (not just Marketing Awards) every year because of their agency brand? Could the judges be influenced in the same manner that consumers are?

"I want a safe car, so I will buy a Volvo." "I must pick the best creative, so I must pick a Taxi piece."

I'm pretty sure no judge would acknowledge that there could be any truth in that. But that's the same thing as a consumer denying that they are affected by advertising.

It's just a fun thought upon which to ruminate for a few minutes. All the stuff that won was brilliant. What a bunch of rock stars they are.

I did share this fun thought with a friend of mine at the show who had her own thought that I thought was a very insightful thought.

She is a very senior person at a big multinational agency. She said that when the senior people at her agency have their regular meetings to review the business, they talk about financials. Only financials. They never talk about creative. When they review their accounts, it's about how much money comes in, not about the quality of work that's being done for them.

She thinks this emphasis is reversed at The Big Five Creative Shops. I think she's probably right.

In fact, in a couple of cases, I know first-hand that she is. I've spent time with a couple of The Big Five talking about WWF's business. There's no question that agencies like Taxi and Rethink are all about the creative in every aspect of how their business is managed.

It's like any brand. If you want to be about something, you must live that something. You can't fake it. Saying it doesn't make it so.

This is why the same five agencies wear a path on the carpet to the podium every year.

I bet if the awards were for the biggest bag of money couriered to New York, you'd see five different agencies winning every single year.

And good for them, too. I guess.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pam, glad to hear you somewhat enjoyed the event. As you found out, the show is not the focus of the evening.

You hit on a very interesting point around the age old issue of billable hours versus creative thinking. As someone who has worked both agency and client side, this is one of the biggest issues in my business day. Not the situation you want when my role is to offer my clients creative solutions to their business problems.

Any solutions or suggestions welcome.

"non billable" marketer

12:57 PM  
Blogger Pam Davis and Bill Baker said...

Dear NBM,

I wish I had the answer, but I suspect that you already know I don't.

I've done lots of pontificating on the matter, though. And I do have some thoughts.

I really think the answer lies on the shoulders of clients. Ultimately, the client is responsible for the product with their brand on it.

Like anything, really, it's all about expectations and ability of a client to create the proper environment to ensure those expectations can be met.

In chosing an agency, a client must know exactly what they need, what they want and what they can afford.

Somewhere, a balance between the three must be struck and the expectations set based on that balance. And then stick to the parameters built by those expectations.

The trick for a client is to remember what they were buying when they hired their agency.

Almost all agency/client relationship issues can in some way be related back to the original expectations for the relationship.

Some people say that agency/client relationships are like marriages. I don't think so. I think they're much harder than that...because at least with a marriage, there's make-up sex.


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