Wednesday, June 13, 2018

It's complicated. (It shouldn't be.)

In our industry, for every one person who tries to simplify what we do, there are 19 or 47 who try to complicate things.

Complication, when you get right down to it, is good for business. If no one knows exactly what you’re talking about, they’re usually afraid to admit it. So they nod their heads and you charge them for it.

Don’t believe me? Think about getting your car repaired or your washer-dryer, or getting your kitchen redone. Someone tells you your Freon capacitor is clogged, and before you can say “Alexa, what’s a Freon capacitor?” you’re out $179 for parts and $235 for labor.

Back in the real world it seems I spend one-third of my day hearing about agencies who are going to help their clients with business transformation. Business transformation? Most clients don’t pick up the phone when it rings and have no one competent on staff to handle minor problems.

Does it really take an MBA and a specialist in transformational strategic frameworks to tell a business to answer the phone by the third ring, to call people back when you can’t resolve their questions and to have enough cashiers when the store is crowded?

My personal belief is most businesses—and this includes the near-defunct like Sears and the like—would even today be more viable if they took care of their customers in a helpful way. That’s the easiest step one there is, and you don’t need a degree in behavioral economics and user interaction design to get there.

Our business, of course, has no immunity from the disease of over-complication. In fact, and I wish I were exaggerating here, I think one-third of the meetings I attend might just as well be conducted in Swahili. I have no idea what anyone is talking about. And the human connections and behaviors and journeys we’re supposed to be “optimizing” seem to have no connection to any real observable human behavior. In other words, I don’t understand what you’re saying, and I’m not sure people act that way anyway.

As long-time readers of this blog know, my old man was in this business a generation before me. I stumbled upon an article from the New York Times from November 26, 1968—49 and a half years ago.

We hear a lot in our business about how “the agency model is broken.” I guess that’s the 21st Century way of saying such-and-such place sucks. Or their management is made up of tasteless dodos.

I wonder if our worlds would be dramatically improved, smarter, friendlier and productive of more successful work if we followed the dictum from my old man so many years ago. What if we started “putting the money where we make the money”?

In other words what if we cut the crap, reduced our industry to its simplest and reaffirmed that “great creative makes great brands.” (See Apple. See Nike. See IBM.)

And then, as an agency, we invested accordingly.

Simple, right?

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