Monday, April 3, 2023

Bill Bernbach, we miss your wisdom

Bill Bernbach told potential client (an Chivas Regal owner) Sam Bronfman:
“I think I ought to tell you that I’ll never know as much about your business as you do. How can I? You built it, you breathe it, you dream it.
But you have to understand I’m in a different business to you, even though it involves your product. And I know my business better than you?”
OK in case you do not know who Bill Bernbach is, please look here (and mind you am trying not to scream).
I am still at where things are today - no, no, not the joke that Lebanon has become on all fronts - I mean specifically in the ad business. I think, though am not sure, this applies to many countries, but again I am going to keep it on Lebanese level. And this I have heard from many people. who work in the industry, but now are too disheartened.
Was it like that before? Yes, but not as pronounced.
Even back in 2005 our part-agency owner scolded me for putting the client back in his place when he was rude and insulting to me. Yes, I gave the part-owner a piece of my mind as well if you want to know for his reaction. I also gave the agency manager a major dressing down when he did not defend me in front of another marketing manager when the man was also giving me unfairly a very harsh remark (that must have been 2004 I think).
But this was then, now it is - really, really, pronounced. Agencies are paper pushers, no more, no less. Entities without balls. I wrote about this earlier here. And this is where I go back to what Bernbach said. Yes, the business owner knows his business and his product. But the advertiser and communication specialist know how to spread his message.
Which brings us about the arrogance of the clients, the uselessness of advertising agencies, and the whole conundrum we are in. A pretty sad case of affairs. In 2019, right before the crisis in Lebanon, no matter what I did for a client his reply was "khayye Toni ma habb" (my brother Toni did not like it)... At one point it was obvious working with him was going to be catastrophic so I stopped. He did phone me later and my reply was "let your brother Toni do the ad, he seems good at it".
The difference was that I knew exactly how to position the client, how to make him reach out to his audience, how to talk to them, how to communicate his business. Sure, it is his business and he knows all the nooks and crannies of it, but he does not know about the communication part.
Long story short, these days I am so saddened where agencies have become. Just "yes sir" to ignorant clients - all of them afraid to lose the client and agreeing to the silliest whims instead of actually working as consigliere to the client, advising him and educating him.
But maybe I am asking too much, when the agency itself is uneducated and "does not know (its) business better than (the client)" to misquote Bernbach.