October 01, 2013
The Search For Miracles
With the exceptions of pop music and fashion, there is probably no more trendy business than advertising.
Every few years we invent a trendy new miracle and everyone immediately jumps on it.
Sometimes it's a media miracle like social media.
Sometimes it's a process miracle like account planning.
Sometimes it's a technical miracle like "big data."
Whatever shape the miracle takes, one thing is for sure: it's going to change everything.
Every agency in the known universe jumps all over the new miracle and it becomes the centerpiece of their website and their new business pitch.
Every agency also becomes expert in this new miracle, and starts up a department to specialize in it. They "brand" it (i.e., give it a stupid name) and develop a pseudo-proprietary flavor of this miracle.
Although what they do is exactly the same as what every other agency does, their flavor usually contains some kind of highly-evolved methodology with circles and arrows and dotted lines and feedback loops.
In other words, it's a muy grande bullshit burrito.
Amazingly, clients believe in these miracles. The way it happens is that the agency usually trots out the example of the company that has been wildly successful implementing the miracle. The fact that this example is two or three standard deviations from normal is never discussed. All that anyone needs to know is that Zappos was a huge social media success, or "got milk" utilized account planning, or, I don't know, someone had a million hits on their QR code, and naive clients start salivating and wanting a piece of the miracle.
The truly sad part is that there really is an advertising miracle. It's called an idea -- a great creative idea. Unfortunately, it's hard to come by and there are very few who can perform it.
The ad business has adopted a very dangerous and short-sighted habit: selling the wrong kind of miracles.
The only real miracle we have in our bag of tricks is the creative one. It's the only one we've ever had.
The most appropriate phrase ever written about chasing the latest trendy advertising miracle was written by someone you've never heard of named Herman Hupfeld.
Herman wrote, "the fundamental things apply, as time goes by."