January 22, 2009

The Mystery Of Success

Here's a mystery.

Those of us who have worked at global ad agencies know how screwed up most of them are. Those of us who see the output of these agencies know how lousy much of it is.

And yet big, successful companies keep hiring the same 4 agency networks over and over while much smarter, smaller agencies have to fight over scraps.

Why is this?

The most obvious reason is that people like to work with people like themselves. So "global" marketing directors like to have "global" account managers to sip white wine with.

But I think it's more than that. It's obvious that the ad business has become less about the ads and more about the rationale for the ads. We call it strategy, but it's rarely strategy. It's mainly justification.

The same is happening in the area of agency new business. Clients no longer select agencies on their ability to create good ads. They select them on their ability to make good presentations.

The agency that makes the best presentation wins. Global agencies are better at making presentations than smaller agencies. They can afford people who are good at nothing but making presentations.

Some of the best ad people I've ever worked with were terrible presenters. Making good presentations is a very different skill from making good ads.

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