Want to know why advertising is dead, but living on like a money-eating zombie? Watch The Pitch, a reality show where real ad agencies face off for real work from real clients.
Among many silly things said by the agency people on the pilot episode were these:
- "We pride ourselves on creativity, not playing it safe, doing things that no one has ever seen before."
- "We ask clients to take risks, because we've taken risks."
If I were the client, I'd immediately remove the agencies where people say things like that from all consideration. Because to those guys, the work is about themselves, not about accomplishing their clients' goals. They are going to produce dumb, crappy, clever ads that don't motivate people to buy the clients' products.
Unfortunately, the clients can't quite see through the fog and are willing to pay agencies to bare their empty souls to a world that doesn't give a rip.
These whiny agency hacks think they are artists, creative free-spirits with a vision and a passion that just needs to be discovered. And they think their clients are the media for their art that should be willing to pay for the privilege.
The difference between them and real artists is this: Real artists are willing to live in poverty and obscurity while they seek their vision. Some of them actually do produce things no one has ever seen before -- unlike the agency folks who think their latest wordplay or clever sex joke is some kind of avant-garde statement.
The good news is, a lot of companies are starting to figure it out. They're not interested in paying for the fantasy life of agency people. So times are getting harder and harder for the parasites.
What does this have to do with nonprofits?
Not much. But every once in a while, one of us gets pulled into the upside-down world of the agency artistes, and they produce faddish, opaque brands that don't move donors and stupid nonprofit ads.
Not all agencies are like that. Some do brilliant work and really focus on their clients, not their own tortured souls. But if you find yourself talking to an ad agency, make sure you don't end up working with frustrated artists who see you as a kind of "paint" for their own artistic self-expression.