Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Dear JWT, can you remind me again what the hell is an advertising agency for?

So how about that for an iconic ad.

And yet, I do understand that the main purpose of any ad is to eventually sell the brand. This much is granted. The problem is when there is a major disconnect - when the client does not know who they are and agencies are too chicken to tell them out of fear of losing accounts.

It is a sad situation but somehow I still feel the main job of the agency is to tell the client about the identity of what they are trying to sell people. Because most of the time the client confuses their positioning, with their price and their own personality. Lately, a client who was selling at obscene prices (and I mean obscene) told me "but we are humble people" because the strategy and positioning I suggested for their product was too high end. The problem? The product was so elitist there was no way to sell it to the commoner with "simple" words - not-counting that the final client who will shell incredibly big bucks gives no hoot if the owner of the company behind is "humble" (the funny part? the agency I am treating with on behalf of the client sent me a stern message which said basically, that I need to remodel my strategy based on the client, not the product).

Once, when I bought an Hermes object (I have expensive tastes I know), I was offered one of their magazines. The theme of the issue was "le temps devant soi" - it was so impeccably made. Interestingly it had no Hermes products in it. None, zero. On and on went the pages, the beautiful imagery. The end result? You'd want to buy even more Hermes because of it. Because the magazine seduces you into a world, a mood, a place you want to join. All without "actively trying" to sell me anything.

Which brings us to the notion that - too many times to count - the agencies simply tweak their strategy to resemble the client's "personality" not his product. Which I find baffling. Because when I am going to buy a product, I am going to buy it judging on its own merits, not those of the family/person who created it.

Sure, many products are related closely to their creators, and of course some people are their own brand (we all are at some point but I digress). Yet, with time, some of these brands transition away from their creators (do you still associate Chanel with a Nazi-sympathizing woman called Gabrielle? do you still see James Dyson as associated with his political beliefs as opposed to his technical output?) leaving the product in question to be judged as is (think: right now Balenciaga is Demna rather than Cristobal, but even that is questionable - see here).

So what "the hell is an advertising agency for?" - I have some ideas. But advertising agencies will not like them.