Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Napoleon on Advertising.

Right now I am reading, about to finish actually, Dominic Lieven's weighty tome and soon-to-be-classic "Russia Against Napoleon--The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace."

I find books on military history interesting in and of themselves but also because they often reveal something about milder forms of social organizations--that is advertising agencies. Last night in the penultimate chapter I read a sentence that really hit me. "...the situation was turning in the allies' favor in all three crucial areas of the war, in other words supply, diplomacy and military operations."

It occurred to me you can similarly break down what we do in advertising. We have supply: This is the people who create ideas--that is who make what we sell. We have diplomacy: the relationships and salesmanship that elicit trust, that allow you to sell work. And finally, we have [military] operations: that is, fresh ideas, new techniques, different approaches. The work that takes territory, subdues a foe and wins hearts and minds.

Having worked full-time at nine different agencies in my 26-year career, very rarely do agencies utilize all three prongs of this three-tined fork. And if they do have and utilize all three prongs, they are more often than not badly coordinated.

I'm not one for war metaphors. But since we already have campaigns and war rooms, why don't we think about what we do a bit more martially. My guess is we'd be a bit more successful.

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