Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wait 'til next year.

At the end of a given sports season, regardless of the sport, regardless of the level at which it's played, all the teams but the team that won whatever championship, vow "Wait 'til next year." By that they mean that during the off-season, changes will be made in personnel, in training, in attitude, in philosophy even, that will bring more success in the subsequent season. Whew!

Much the same is happening in the agency world as we speak. "We're going to be media agnostic." "Embrace the internet." "It doesn't matter where ideas come from." "We're going to excise clients who don't get it." "For now on, we'll deal only with c-level client--we'll partner with them."

There are myriad other "new paradigms" out there. But the ones above seem the most prevalent and redolent. (Redolent means smelly.) My guess is if I had a quarter for every agency that said it's going to change and doesn't, I'd be rich enough now to resolutely rebuff News Corp's offer of $785 million for Ad Aged and my editorial services. As it stands, I'm forced to paraphrase Mark Twain. "Everybody talks about change but nobody does anything about it." Most often, the big wigs blather on about how it's happening while the fellas in the trenches are baling with their hands and old coffee cans. I dare you to look at how big Y&R NY was pre-Fudge and how big they are now.

The rant above got me thinking about Adam Morgan, author of "Eating the Big Fish," and "The Pirate Inside." In "Fish," published at the peak of the original dot-boom, Morgan codified what it takes for "challenger brands" to be successful. Agencies, I think, are always challenger brands--growth and dominance lasts about as long as an account guy's smile when creatives leave the room. So here are Morgan's principles of change, which I culled from his book:

The Eight Credos of Successful Challenger Brands

1. Break with your immediate past.
Be open to abandoning business as usual.

2. Say who you are.
Be clear. Be consistent. Be persistent.

3. Assume thought leadership.
Show the world you’re smarter. Define the playing field.

4. Puncture dominant complacency.
Change how you view yourself and change how you’re seen.

5. Definition over depth.
Be sharp and concise. Own who you are.

6. Overcommit.
Be prepared to do everything you can to sell the work to those
who adhere to business as usual.

7. Advertising (getting your definition out) is a vital ally.
Be shocking, combative, intrusive.

8. Momentum. Gain it and keep it.
Go. Go. Go.

In short, if you want change to happen within your own private House of Usher, those eight steps are worth thinking about.

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