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No wonder so many advertising agencies run a mile

I’m indebted to the Ad Contrarian blog for directing my attention to this video. As the blog post says, it’s “a series of interviews with planners and/or strategists trying to explain something – I’m not really sure what. It is either the difference between planning and strategy or the similarities or… I don’t know, something. Whatever it is, it is a thorough embarrassment to our industry.”

I think it’s quite typical of the advertising ‘industry’, actually. When people ask what I do for a living, I normally waffle about marketing consultancy – anything to avoid using the term ‘advertising’. Journalism, which I’ve done for most of my career, doesn’t have a great reputation for trust. But at least it’s not advertising, which has been one of the great refuges of talentless charlatans for most of the last century.

The opportunities presented by what they’ve absurdly termed ‘digital’ have only made things worse. The websites of many advertising agencies seem designed to be so incomprehensible that readers will find themselves being overawed. Yet many – or most – people in advertising have less formal training than, say, someone working on a production line. Do they just make it up as they go along? You bet they do.


Managing pay-per-click advertising is what I’m paid to do nowadays. And my company makes it quite clear to clients that it’s not rocket science. It’s just a long, hard slog with spreadsheets and lots (and lots) of data analysis. I expect nearly all of our clients could get good results themselves, if they had the time. A lot of it. Most don’t have, and it doesn’t make economic sense to even think about it.

Pay-per-click advertising is a very different thing from conventional speculative advertising. After all, search advertising isn’t even very ‘creative’, it’s data-driven – so it’s hard to charge big fees for intangible contributions. But the return on investment is clear, and speaks for itself. No wonder so many advertising agencies run a mile from the whole idea.

Mind you, I do hope Siobhan Sharpe expands Perfect Curve into a ‘full service digital agency’ and that they make a TV series about it.

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