Author: Marvin Duval
Date: March 2018
Author: Marvin Duval
Date: March 2018
Apart from the perfect suits, vintage watches, smoking in the office and the vulgar, promiscuous lifestyle, fans of Mad Men may have noticed something else that characterized the ad industry of the past. There was no such thing as separate creative agencies and media agencies. Back then, both entities were collaborating departments of the same advertising agency. Now, the meteoric rise of data-driven advertising prompts a return to this model. Whether you like it or not, consolidation is happening.
Even though we have now grown quite accustomed to a fragmented marketing landscape, those of us attentive of recent developments are seeing parts of that landscape trying to consolidate itself once more. We see S4 Capital merging with MightyHive. DDB Unlimited is calling itself ‘The performance agency’. And while all that is happening, consulting firms like Accenture and PWC have started their own ad agency-esque subsidiaries. So, what’s going on? What is the driving force behind the need for an agency setup similar to that of the Mad Men era?
You don’t count if you don’t have the numbers to back up your claims. The market demands it. And if you currently work in the advertising and marketing industry you really feel it. You see it. You hear it in the language people use. From likes, shares, views. CPM and CTR, to CPL and ROAS. We’re all forced to enrich our vocabularies with a colorful collection of jargon. Copious amounts of acronyms and abbreviations that always signify the same thing. A metric. A unit of measurement. A manifestation of the fact that the industry is hungry for one thing; quantification. The client isn’t just interested anymore in what you bring to the table. The client is interested in how much you can bring to the table. How much is your campaign, strategy and creative concept going to generate?
Quantification is here to stay. Marketing objectives have become absolute. Gone are the days of abstract. Taste and opinion are beginning to matter less and less in this industry. Advertisers and their marketers have gotten KPI’s formulated in digits. In this season, gray is out. Black and white are in. And if the KPI’s aren’t met, then quarterly reviews will be bad. Performance reviews will be bad and heads will roll. The client demands that its agency delivers on the digit. Because the client’s ass is on the line and therefore, the agency’s ass is on the line. The target, the unit of measurement. The KPI. The metric has become sexy by demand and everyone lusts for uplift. Vulgarity made its way back into the trade manifested in the glorification of the metric.
For the amount of jargon that exists to signify metrics, an equal amount exists to indicate correlation. Cause and effect is becoming less and less subject for debate. With all the pixels, tags and trackers we have now, there is more accuracy to monitor whether or not a person who saw an ad, actually did what the ad intended that person to do. The influence an ad had on a consumer can now be more accurately monitored. Ads are no longer detached from conclusions made several steps down the line. Therefore, the content of the ad, the creative concept which occupies its space, can and will be held accountable for achieving or not achieving on its quantifiable objective. Therefore inevitably, its creator is under scrutiny.
The market’s objective-driven need for quantification is brutal. It is so brutal that even the hip, artistic, charming and suave creative cannot escape its clutches anymore. Gone are the days that a nice ad was enough to validate success. Nice isn’t enough anymore. An ad needs to be good. And a good ad achieves its intended objective. A good branding ad achieves a good ad recall rate. A good sales ad achieves a high CTR towards the e-com platform or marketplace. Poor Don Draper, at the mercy of the suits he so despises.
But, does this mean the end of creativity? Far from it. Creative is now more important than ever and that’s why the market demands creative to be better understood. If anything, this is the age where the creative is emancipated, once more earning a rightful place at the table amongst businessmen. It is at this table where the creative needs to defend the merit of his craft. And to be able to defend it, the creative needs a set of tools of which taste, assumption and originality alone aren’t going to cut it anymore. No matter how many foam board cutouts he brings. The creative will have to play by the same rules everyone else is forced to abide.
To win, the creative will need an alliance. For he currently lacks a skill that the market unfairly demands of him. Bill Bernbach pioneered by putting himself in the same room as Helmut krone in an age where copy was king and art was merely there to support copy. DDB innovated by putting a copywriter and an art director in the same room. Equal partners both dedicated to the craft of developing award winning creative. That room will have to welcome another person: the digital media channel specialist. The creative needs to gain insight into the cause and effect of his creations. For this, he needs a partner and navigator who truly understands the landscape in which the creations will be placed. This is the reason why the walls between (digital)media agency and creative agency are starting to blur once again. They are driven by the market demand of consolidating these disciplines. To achieve the collective goal of quantification.