Monday, July 20, 2015

Our Industry Is A Little Unwell. Will This Guy Put A Bullet In It?


Steve Jobs killed the compact disc. Henry Ford killed the horse & buggy.

Now ex-Havas CEO David Jones may be about to do the same to the ad agency.

He has raised the enormous sum of $350 million to set up a global "brand tech" company that will build brands using technology. His plans are a little vague at the moment, but he is adamant that "Everything that the traditional model does, we will do the opposite." 

I've written before about the need for a new agency model - let's face it, this is an urgent problem - so props to Jones. He's going for it.

And I applaud his focus on technology. No one knows exactly what the evolution of the agency model will look like, but we have to assume that technology will play a big role.

However, like anyone touting a new model, Jones is obliged to say that the old model is shit.

Therefore, he lays a out a damning series of accusations against the agency business.

Are they justified?

Let's take a look.

"I’d rather give 100,000 film-makers $10,000 and the opportunity to create content than give one overpaid, under-talented creative director $1 million," he says.

Hmm. Maths may not be his strong suit. If you give $10,000 to 100,000 film-makers, you've actually spent $1 BILLION, not $1 million. (I'll be charitable and assume it's the journalist's mistake, not Jones's).

But the idea that there is an under-talented creative director out there earning $1 million is just laughable. You simply can't get to that figure in our industry, or even a third of that figure, without being insanely talented.

Here's his next criticism of ad agencies: "You could only create if you were one of the 10 per cent of the agency that were in the creative department," Jones says. "In fact, if anybody outside of that 10 per cent had an idea, it was automatically the dumbest idea on the planet."

So, so, so, much wrong with this. So much. First of all, why the hell was he running an agency in which only 10 per cent of the staff were creatives? No wonder he wasn't impressed with them. They were probably run ragged...

But the bit about how you could 'only' create if you were in the creative department? So annoying.

I'm a CD and my whole job is to deliver good ideas to my clients. I'm always on the hunt for ideas. I'm desperate for more ideas, better ideas, different ideas. And there is nothing stopping the suits and planners from coming up with ideas. In fact, in my experience, they do continually make suggestions. Not usually fully-formed ideas, but 'ways in', thought-starters, and 'angles' - which is as it should be. 

The suggestion that any ideas from outside the creative department are considered automatically dumb... I've heard this one so many times, it's really starting to tweak my wiener. I definitely don't care where ideas come from. Why would I? Gold is gold, and whoever puts it on the table, I will take it straight to the bank, believe me.

I think what happened to David Jones is that he suggested an idea, it got rejected, and he assumed it was rejected because he was an account man. Easier to think that, perhaps, than to accept that the idea wasn't very good.

The typical creative team might have to put up ten, twenty, thirty or fifty ideas to get one the CD thinks is good enough to show the client. It ain't easy.

And despite his good intentions, I worry that David Jones thinks it is.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

For $350m, I'd go all techno babble too.

Anonymous said...

"All agencies start off differently, but end up the same"

I don't know if a whole new model is required. Colenso make lots of fun stuff, albeit spec. Grey have turned themselves around without tearing down the model, just some internal systems. I bought some insurance recently after watching a TV ad. It's all going to be okay.

David J Smith said...

He doesn't take into account the multiple layers of feedback and hoop jumping that creatives become adept at. An outside film maker can make you a film but they will struggle to deal with the nuanced, and often bizarro feedback that creatives must deal with. Anyone can have an idea, but it takes a true specialist to keep it alive and well through the choppy waters of marketing.

Sell! Sell! said...

Havas.

That's all you need to know.

Your own old agency's problems aren't our problems mate, jog along now.

Just the latest in the Victors & Spoils-esque faux-reinvention PR-hungry nonsense that doesn't get anywhere near the actual things that the ad business could improve to give itself a better chance of making better output more consistently.

I feel your analysis is spot-on Mr Scamp.

theHype said...

David Jones is the absolute KING of PR...when he was at Havas he had numerous PR agencies spinning for him and now is no different. The $350m treasure chest is impressive and David was the most progressive holding company CEO so he will definitely shake things up

R/GA said...

So he has raised $150m to create R/GA or Huge. Interesting, what about anomaly or BCG DV?

Something tells me there is more than just doing the opposite.

Scamp said...

True. It does sound like he's possibly creating an R/GA. Yet what's interesting about their model is that it is NOT based on cutting layers, as Jones implies he can do. They actually have even MORE staff than a regular ad agency. But sell their services at a premium. (And fair play to them).

Anonymous said...

Good post. One things for sure though: "There's no other agency like David Jones."

Anonymous said...

Having worked at Euro RSCG Sydney when David Jones was there, I can confirm the creative department was run ragged. The reason? There were zero planners in the agency at the time and David Jones refused to hire any. He thought he could do that job himself. The result was the creative department was used to develop the strategy by coming up with campaign, after campaign, after campaign to work out what the strategy should be. With the result very little work was made, despite large amounts of creative being developed. David Jones personally fired a number of creatives without the then creative director, Matt Cummings, being consulted, because they were asking for planners to be hired. Not a popular man.

Anonymous said...

Great post. And great comments.

WS5871 said...

I am trying get my creatives to do the same thing here in Indonesia. I am 16 years experienced suits who is tired of making TV spots - in media that people rarely watch at all....

Frankly huge disappointed by reception from creatives here in my country, they are the one who supposedly challenge me to sell more innovative way in communication.

They seems so allergic to work together with people we call "creative technologist"...

Sometimes I wonder whether they are eaten by blackhole universe of making $1M 30 second spots, ... or their egos get in the way...or they just don't have vision for better ad industry.....

But I will keep on trying..... I love this industry and that's been the reason I jumped back to this industry from client sides twice...

Good luck to you and wish me luck here as well....

Steve's Ford said...

I always love your blog Simon.

An interesting fact - neither Steve Jobs, nor Henry Ford set out to kill the compact disc or the horse and buggy and certainly neither hailed it - at least in the beginning.

I bet there were many hailing the end of all manner of things in ages past, and I'd also wager that none of those hear-ye's made any significant dent on the price of fish in China.

mr obvious said...

Isn't he one of the guys who helped make the advertising industry what it is today?

100% said...

ex holding company ceo leaves to set up agency representing the opposite of everything he has just spent the last 15 years building - who do you believe?