The Kodak Moment used to be a great line for capturing life’s precious memories on the world’s most popular film. Now it has become a codec for becoming irrelevant. A moment when your business crashes and you seem surprised; when everyone else could see it coming. The move from film to digital broke one of the world’s best companies not because digital is ‘the future’. But because it was becoming the new normal. And that’s how agencies feel right now. The Evening Standard says the move from agency creativity to in-house creativity is breaking agencies in the same way. It’s supposedly the new normal. It’s easier for a client to use data and direct online media to get ROI. It’s more controllable and cheaper to ask their marketing staff to ideate executions. It’s more secure to have your own creatives churning out messages without a break in transmission in the brand newsroom. There’s no need for a big idea. It’s safer to follow the media market and stay in a job in the short term. The average tenure of a Marketing Head is 3 years, the average tenure of a CEO is 2.5 years, no wonder then that the herd has moved to safety. Agencies have lost control of the media – globally – so businesses go direct to Google, Amazon, Facebook et al. And those who know their agency history know that agencies were media companies well before they had creative or planning departments. Creatives are calling foul and lamenting the good old days, when in fact, like the farmers, they may have to change from farming watercress to cannabis. But there will still be creative opportunities and agencies will never die, creativity will always drive them upward, because one thing all companies need is agents with fresh eyes to execute beautifully crafted work by selecting the finest new talents in film, illustration, photography and writing. But the malaise is in businesses becoming obsessed with brand purpose and the method of reaching people, forgetting that the crazy, dangerous thinking that changes culture is what’s really needed. Remember? Here’s to the crazy ones.
Fewer and fewer marketing professionals are risking their position to create a position of fame for their brand. It’s short term thinking when the real opportunity is to create brand fame that keeps the nation in thrall to your product for decades. But the short term sales opportunities are the full focus, instead of simply being a primary focus.
The BBH mantra, “Our objective is effectiveness, our strategy, creativity” still holds true today. But agencies are doing what they do best, navel gazing and trying to reinvent the model to look like they are ahead. And they just don’t seem to get art anymore, they are proud data scientists! Art. It’s a great investment opportunity. Apparently you have to study it. Learn it. Master it. And then if you ‘can do it’ you have to beat the best to make some money to eat. Bullshit. We’re all artists, we just forgot to be artists because the hot topic is data not insight. Even the Sun newspaper that spent its life laughing at the Turner Prize now celebrates it. The value for creatives of reading The Sun used to be to connect with how the nation thinks. Well, the nation now ‘gets’ art. They get that if we don’t have artists we don’t have colour and shape and fashion and performance and culture or anything that makes life less grey. But many of the businesses and marketing departments out there don’t see it anymore, the majority of them are living and working in the matrix of binary code.
What is crazy is that clients don’t want artists. They don’t want to be challenged and changed and developed, bullied and pushed and prodded and… moved. They don’t want us to scare them anymore. Because they really are scared now.
They want in-house creative focus, yes, a compelling creatively led voice; of course. But they’re missing out on the prize. You won’t get the madness, the immediacy, the surprising, culture shattering, sheer tomfuckery of a culture transforming idea in–house. Now of course there are exceptions to this and what you can get is a brilliantly creative exposition of the brand, and it will feel like a brand connecting with the audience in wonderful way. But you’ll rarely get that cultural shift, because when brands talk about themselves you can tell. But when a team of agency creatives look at a brand with fresh eyes, you get the good news about your brand. You get insight. You get to look at it in a way you would never have thought. With creative people who ‘see it’ today rather than look at it every day. You will get a piece of culture that disturbs the nation, and yet somehow becomes the new normal. A few years later it’s easier to buy and a little bit more ordinary. That’s culture. What scares you today is ordinary tomorrow. So let’s bring back the madness, you do have to pay for it, because even mad people eat. But what you get back is fame, notoriety and you secure your place in popular culture. I may have to apologise to a few mates who have gone in-house, but as Sir John Hegarty says, “you will spend your whole life working on f***ing baked beans”. The new normal will be – and should be – very close ties with the clients’ very necessary in-house team. It will be working together and never being afraid to let the agency do the ‘in-house’, to be ‘in-house’ more often; and have the in-house working in the agency. And as for Kodak, film has a wonderful organic feel, and even though that can be replicated, what humans need is originality and authenticity. Film will never die, originality will never die, but it will be cowed by data for a little while, until we see another crazy, mad idea that shouldn’t happen, that sees in a new way, that scares the shit out of us just for one day then takes its place in history. Evening Standard Campaign: In-Housing