Content Is King, Right?
This past week, I experienced first-hand a level of public interest in the content of advertising than I have ever seen before. I’m talking of course about the lead up to the Super Bowl. This year, it felt like the feeding frenzy of the media to get opinions and an “inside look” at what marketing strategies and creative styles and/or approaches were right in line with the marketers desire to get a jump on popularity. So appreciation for the creative skills of advertising was hitting new heights — which is all good. After all, isn’t that what this industry looks for—praise for the craft? This also provided the recognition that truly great creative, both conception and execution, are more than just important—they are crucial for effective marketing. Or is it?
With all of this happening, there was one story that stuck in my head and seemed to fly in the face of what seemed apparent that seemed to say that creative really doesn’t matter, only the medium does.
The Dannon Super Bowl spot. So here you have a marketer that ponied up $3.5MM to do their first ever Super Bowl commercial, and for creative they didn’t bring it to their long time agency (Y&R), they didn’t bring it to another agency, they didn’t go to an established director or even an experienced one– they didn’t even consider them. Rather, they put it to a company called Pop Tent. Pop Tent has a network of budding filmmakers that each got the “opportunity” to shoot commercials at their own cost and submit them to the client. If they “win” they get $10K. The client boasted that they didn’t use their agency because they needed something “truly creative” and that they normally would have run the spot as is, but since there was “star talent” they reshot for $30-$40K. Wow, their normal creative partner cannot deliver something “truly creative.” Rather than insult them, they should fire them.
I know what you are thinking, “Doritos has been doing this for years. Well not really. Doritos uses this “crowdsourcing” as a public competition with public voting and huge PR attached for the big prize of $1MM and in addition it’s really a joke, because as we all see on Facebook within our networks (“vote for my spot”)—it’s all advertising people doing this on the side, so the “public” really doesn’t stand a chance—but it still gets the hype—and Doritos still gets its ad for free (unless it pays out, which it has in most years, gladly).
Dannon did this as an “invite only closed competition” and as a clear way to get 31 kids to do creative and production for nothing—with only the promise of giving the “winner” $10K—in the end they “bought” two; and in the end they also got what they paid for– a trite spot that was akin to them bringing a knife to a gunfight; a nice enough spot for perhaps “The View,” but not something you should want to step out with in front of the largest TV audience in history and a public that is putting you under a microscope. But this approach was something that was the lead of their press release— and the ill- thought out concept that it is a truly ground breaking approach designed to “beat the system.” It’s their wasted money right, and missed opportunity–so who cares?
My problem is that this model feeds on the notion that creative and production is a commodity and just about anyone can come up with a “winning idea.” While no one has a lock on creativity– there should be a confidence in professionalism. I spoke with the “winning” 21-yearold director who knows that this is not a way that he can make a living and is really just looking to put his time in and get signed by a production company—he loses money on these things, literally investing in brands (of which he has done seven for major marketers), and marketers are all the happier to exploit his fledgling talents and his shallow pockets. I likened his position to that of an indentured servant waiting out his penance, paying global corporations to look at his talent so that he can get on with his life. He laughed. I didn’t.
The problem is that we are (one job at a time) feeding into this notion that devalues the art and craft of the talented creative community—and not only allowing it to happen, but enabling it. Instead of sitting on the sideline and acting as an “on set consultant,” I wish that Y&R had told their client that they were out of their minds. I wish that Y&R had fired their client if they insisted on bypassing them at this important juncture for their brands development. But these are wishes, and I am not picking on Y&R, because this type of placating of client’s ill-conceived notions about efficiencies permeates the industry—it’s not just with one agency. Clients need to respect the “system’s” ability to find, train and deliver the best talent available– if they continue to think that they can find better talent on the street, shame on us.
We all need stand up and illustrate that we are valuable on the creative side…if not, we are destined to look like bloated soft costs that can be substituted for an “American Idol” system as opposed to “measureable media transactions”. Don’t believe me; read this from AdAge:
“…last week it was reported that even as Unilever hikes spending on media, it’s squeezing agency fees and production costs. ‘We significantly reduced our nonproductive spend during the year,” (CFO) Mr. Huet said. ’As you know, that’s the money we spend on production costs and agency fees, money that’s not directly driving the exposure of our brands to the community and consumers.” ‘
Content is King, right? Not if it is seen as “money that’s not directly driving the exposure of our brands to the community and consumers” and as “nonproductive”. Every Unilever agency should fire their client if this is how their talents are valued… perhaps they can hire Simon Cowell to manage their brands.