Are marketing services failing clients?

I don’t agree with Saatchi’s Kevin Roberts on everything, but there’s a big overlap in our thinking and, hey, differences are what prompts innovation and make the world go round, so that’s good.  Yes?

The thing is that on the fundamentals we are on the same page and its always reassuring to know, when, as we marketers do, you are ploughing the lonely innovation furrow, that someone of Kevin’s gravitas agrees with you, at least in part.  That’s why I was delighted to hear him make three key points in an interview in Singapore recently (he probably made many more) that really resounded with me.

  1. The current economic situation is causing far more radical change than most people still realise and it’s going to go on for a year or two yet.  As a result, business leaders are desperate for ideas, but nervous of change, so the ideas that we take to them have to be bigger, better and more than ever before, grounded in sound commercial thinking.
  2. Marketing services businesses (Kevin focusses on Ad. agencies, I’d put brand consultancies up there too but all the other disciplines are failing their clients too) are generally way behind their clients and end users/consumers when it comes to realising what’s happening and responding to it (which, given that we are paid to be thought-leaders, is pretty damning)
  3. Awards are becoming counter-productive.  They are encouraging agency people to entrench in old-thinking.  It’s almost as though given their failure to deliver in the real world, agencies are retreating to a world of mutual admiration inhabited solely by their peers.

Where maybe I differ from Kevin is that I believe that its our job to lead our clients.  Not just to give them great ideas, but to help them fully exploit them.  This requires bigger thinking.  I am trying to go much further than most agencies, by not only coming up with new creative ideas, but having ideas about how business can change and reshape themselves, communicate internally as well as externally and do new things operationally that will enable them to get more out of the ideas.  And I go further than that even, because, as I just said, business leaders are not only desperate for ideas, but nervous of change too, so its my job as a marketer (and if you are a marketer, its your job too) to help them along the way with implementation.  That’s why I spent months working with buyers at a supermarket group to get them to think differently about their role and what they were buying and why I just devoted weeks to convincing a software organisation to take another look at the environment their otherwise great software creates for users, before they take it to market.

Sure its a lot of work, but that’s the game we are in now.  Be sure about that!

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