July 24, 2013
What Are BDAs Really Good At?
Recently I was talking with the ceo of a tech company about doing some consulting for them. We were having a nice conversation when he said, “But, Bob, the one thing that concerns me is that we are a business-to-business company and you spent your whole advertising career doing consumer advertising and marketing."
I acknowledged the truth of the statement and then went on to use one of my horrible baseball analogies to explain why it was irrelevant. My analogy went like this. A good pitcher is a good pitcher regardless of what team he is pitching for. It doesn’t matter if he has a Yankees uniform on or an Astros uniform. A good pitcher can pitch well for every team, a bad pitcher can’t pitch well for any team.
Similarly, people who are good at marketing are good at it, and people who are bad are bad. You're not likely to find a person who's terrible at marketing peanut butter but great at marketing jelly.
Later in the day I was thinking about our conversation and I had an epiphany (or an apostrophe or an epitome, or whatever the hell you call that thing you have.)
It is true that my clients were in the consumer marketing business, but I (as an agency owner) was not. I was in the B2B business. I had to convince businesses to buy what my business was selling.
Agencies do consumer marketing on behalf of their clients, but B2B marketing on behalf of themselves. In other words, I did B2B marketing successfully for 40 years and didn’t realize it.
Which brings me back to my current obsession with globalized agency holding companies (the great George Parker calls them BDAs – Big Dumb Agencies.) Four of them currently control over 70% of the advertising in the US.
According to the people who know and judge these things, these BDA's are generally considered to be hack-ish and not very good at creating interesting advertising.
The way I see it, they may not be brilliant at communicating with consumers. But you have to admit, if they have sold themselves to 70% of the marketers in the US, they must be awesome at B2B.