Friday, August 28, 2009

Do You Need An Ad Agency?

Sean X. Cummings says that agencies need clients more than clients need agencies.

Agencies over the last 20 years have morphed into advanced communication production shops.
But agencies used to be so much more than that. They were the creative powerhouses. The ideation shops. The meme creators for their brands across society. Some still are, but is meme creation needed anymore?

The explosion of communication methods to reach the consumer has had a natural dilution effect. As the playing field got wider, it gave something to consumers they didn't have before: instantaneous access to desire fulfillment and an ability to access information about a product, not just from the company and the agency's perceived lens, but through other consumers and competitors. There have been three profound effects on the technological expansion of media: a wider communication platform for all, the persistence of data on that platform, and a plethora of spawned agency models.

So how is this all related to no longer needing an ad agency? SEM, SEO, interactive, offline, online, media, social media -- the breadth of these elements has made clients' heads spin, and the rapid pace has left many core agencies scrambling.

No longer does the client feel that one shop can handle all their needs, because in reality, no single shop can. But there is something being lost by all of the expansion: message and brand cohesion. Since your "main" agency is no longer the idea shop, and since that message has inherent problems cascading throughout so many communication channels, why have one?

I am about to commit sacrilege.
Most corporate websites are painful reflections of their internal structure. They spend millions on revamping and solving problems, but in reality, they do not address the core issue. The agency model preys on this behavior. It is as if you built a shack that has had room after room bolted onto it -- kitchens, dining facilities, bathrooms, showers, etc. It may appear to be somewhat cohesive on the front end, but at what cost? This is not an agency problem but the client's unwillingness to make substantive decisions for their external web presence.

When you decide to redesign that shack, all of the extra detritus comes along for the ride. You may discard items here and there, but feature-creep somehow always results in another monstrosity being built, and you end up building an Edsel.

The Sauce

Cummings makes some very provocative points (focus groups as CYA, the practice of moving a top performer in an agency to a new venture altogether in hopes of replicating performance) which may give agency honchos and their clients pause.

The current mantra of "adapt or die" brought on by the economy, social media and the rapidly evolving internet will make this a watershed decade. Agencies will have to make a true commitment to the online age--not just slap a new website up and call themselves experts in new media, charging the same fat fees.

Watch for more mergers, big accounts getting pulled and a lot of hand-wringing...

The comments section is open for your thoughts.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Where Are They Now? Bush PR Staff Score New Gigs

Life after power? Looks like it...and lucrative, too.

From Politico:

They represented a controversial president during a time of an unpopular war and a major economic crisis. And now, the former members of George W. Bush's communications staff are ready for anything. In the six months since Bush left office, ex-White House flacks have landed well — in the corporate world and the athletic world. And yes, the political world too.

Read more here.

The Sauce

No matter where you stand on the political map, I submit it's hard to argue that these folks earned their pay. Even the least eventful presidencies have a tendency to chew staff up and spit them out relatively quickly.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

PR and Advertising At a Crossroads?

``This is business Darwinism right now,'' says Sissy DeMaria, president of Coral Gables public relations firm Kreps DeMaria. ``You're going to see a lot of consolidation in the industry, and only the strongest will survive.''
``Public relations and advertising are blending much more than they did in the past,'' says Jeff Steinhour, director of content management at Coconut Grove-based advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky. ``They used to be separate worlds -- like church and state. Now you're seeing them at the same meetings at the same time.''

Check out the entire article.

The Sauce

I've been seeing more and more of the "blending" the past few years; where I used to be apprehensive, now I accept it as the way of things. Advertising and PR, properly synced, can bring hugely successful results. Also being a small shop, more and more of my clients want me to advise them on ad buys as well as PR plans.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Twitter Attacked

I guess it goes without saying that nobody could Tweet about it.

From CNN:

An attack on the social networking site Twitter shut the site down for about two hours on Thursday morning, causing headaches in the online community and glitches in other Web sites like Facebook.

In an e-mail to, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said the site was hit with a "denial of service attack," or an attempt to shut the site down by overwhelming it with traffic.

"There's no indication that this attack is related to any previous activities. We are currently the target of a denial of service attack," Stone said in the e-mail.

"Attacks such as this are malicious efforts orchestrated to disrupt and make unavailable services such as online banks, credit card payment gateways, and in this case, Twitter for intended customers or users. We are defending against this attack now and will continue to update our status blog as we defend and later investigate."

Twitter's site went down around 9:30 a.m. ET on Thursday. A message posted on Twitter's status blog said the site was active again by 11:30 a.m., but that the site remained under attack.

"We are continuing to defend against and recover from this attack," the message says.