Are There Too Many Jobs In Advertising And Marketing?

I am of the belief that more simple and human a process is, the more likely you are to get to a brilliant solution. By 'human' I just mean things like informal, non-jargony chats about the problem and the work, people meeting face-to-face, having honest conversations, discussions, arguments, a laugh here and there.

But the simple part got me to thinking, the way agencies and marketing departments are set-up makes it far more difficult to come up with great stuff than it should be.

What do you need, from an agency point-of-view? Someone who understands the commercial side of what is trying to be achieved, someone with an understanding of the punter, someone who can come up with a way to attack the problem, someone with the skills to put in together well, and someone who can sell the solution.

In the current world of advertising agencies, all of these jobs have been split out, production-line style into separate jobs.

I don't think this is the simplest and best solution. I think advertising was, and is, better off, when fewer people get involved, and those skills above crossed over between them. Less baton-passing, and more attacking of the original business problem head-on.

I think a far better way is to have a commercially and strategically-minded account director, and a strategically-smart creative or creative team working on a problem. I think the planning process gets in the way of coming up with great ideas. It separates the problem from the solution.

This might come off as planner-bashing. But it isn't. I don't have a problem with the people who are planners - I've worked with some great ones, some really smart people. I just have a problem with the role that is planner, and its place in the process. Most of the really good planners I've worked with would have either made very good creatives, or very good account directors of the kind that I'd like to see more of.

What's happened is that separating-out the jobs has removed responsibility from the creatives - in a lot of agencies they don't have think strategically or be commercially-minded. They just paint the pretty pictures. This is part of the reason why a lot of advertising ends up being so facile, and part of reason why the role of creative is being diminished. And also, I think, part of the reason why the quality of advertising creatives is going down.

And the same has happened to account directors. They no longer need to be commercially and strategically smart, they just have to be good at making sure the client is happy (whatever that means).

It's the same on the client-side. All of these marketing roles that have been created look great on paper, but the jobs have become too fragmented. Where once an agency might have dealt with a commercial director, a sales director, or even directly with a CEO, now there are levels of people even within marketing departments.

What set-up do you think presents the best opportunity for the people in it to produce the best solution?

Senior responsible client – smart account director – smart creative people

or

CEO – Marketing director – marketing manager – brand manager – account director – account planner – creative team?

I'll nail my colours to the mast: I am firmly of the belief that cutting out all of the middle-men leads to better advertising.

9 comments:

  1. Working on the bottom rung of a client-side marketing department, there are arguably too many people, but everyone gets dragged into the operational side of the business and any actual marketing work seems like an afterthought :(

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  2. I can only agree with the sentiment of this, but it feels so ingrained as to be impossible to reverse the trend.

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  3. I'm just the Blog Comment Reader.

    I'll have to get the Blog Comment Writer to respond.

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  4. *Takes the bait...*

    Yes there are often too many people involved. And yes too much specialisation allows people to give up responsibility.

    But also no. When it's done properly planning is a rigorous discipline that answers questions that account guys and creatives can't.

    However, I think you might mean "what if we've only got shitty planners who keep using brand jargon and digital buzzwords".

    In which case, I absolutely agree. Ditch them and try and scare them out of working again.

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  5. No bait intended James. Obviously I don't have an issue with rigorous answering of questions etc. but I think adding it as a separate role/stage in the process is detrimental overall. The more detailed customer/market questions are often best answered by specialist researchers anyway.

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  6. Then I can only think that you have not met the right one :(

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  7. Not at all, James. We've worked with some very talented and bright people. Again you're possibly getting confused about what we're saying here: the bright people - good! The actual way they're deployed in the set-up and development process in most agencies - bad!

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  8. In my experience (non UK), some agencies, midweight (30-50 people) or even big ones (more local than multinational), do not have planners in their ranks, and do amazing, relevant, effective, memorable work. Others do have them, and also make great ads. But a vast majority of what we do, with or without planners, tend to be meh-work.

    But, with due respect to James, the assumption that "planning is a rigorous discipline that answers questions that account guys and creatives can't.", do not stand the test of day to day reality.

    Great planners (or good ones, which is slightly more usual) can contribute to the common goal with useful knowledge and powerful guidance, that's for sure. I've known some of them (I myself was a planner-to-be in my earlier days). Oh!, and clients like them.

    However, the same way some Account folks are brilliant strategic salesmen/women, who deeply understand business, and also come up with perfectly valid ideas (or sparks of idea), with which we, copywriters and AD/D, can tinker with or build upon, the margins in which Planning skills live are as well rather mixed.

    Attitudes count more than positions.

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