Thursday, February 20, 2020

A question of economics. And also pride.

The other day I read a short article about a new spot produced by a hot creative agency.

I viewed the :60 appended to the article. It was ok.

To my mind the commercial was not as emotionally adroit as either of the ads above that I’ve somewhat randomly chosen. I could be wrong there. Maybe the commercial was brilliant and because I’m too old or not interested in the product being sold, it was over my head.

My real dismay happened when I looked at the credits—the people who claimed responsibility for creating the piece.

I counted thirty-one creative people involved. Eight of those Creative Director and up.

I understand there’s more to an ad campaign than producing a spot. And I understand the sheer amount of grind that goes into producing work in today’s “collaborative” era.Today’s always-on, multi-channel era. And I understand that success has many fathers. [sorry that’s gendered.]

But nonetheless, if it takes 31 creative people to get a commercial out the door in our business today, yet another thing has gone dramatically wrong.

To my eyes it speaks to a condition where if everyone has responsibility, no one has responsibility. So no one can get in trouble, though everyone can take credit.

Back in the 1980s and even early ‘90s, before the holding companies seemed to gobble up every agency in New York, much of the best work being produced in the city was done by mid-sized shops like Ammirati, Levine, Scali, Lowe.

These agencies were large enough to handle large national clients but not so massive that any bit of work would have to go through 17 rounds of review before being nibbled to death in focus groups.

Also, they weren’t so large that nine teams were put on every assignment. Basically, the pressure was on you and your partner to come through with something. Because it was up to you. It was your responsibility. Your job. Your integrity. Your pride. Your portfolio.

Today, with the stakes of creating advertising so much higher, we throw team after team at problems. Sometimes this works—the natural competition between teams impels people to want to win.

But sometimes it seems to me as the stakes get higher, the bar gets lower.

And there are times, I think, that a bureaucratic “not-my-job-ism” enters the equation. “Leann and Betsy have this. I’ve got to run to my kid’s viola recital.”

I don’t know the reason behind a credits listing of 31 people. There are 720 frames in a 30-second spot, and maybe they decided to give each creative person their own 23.22 frames.
The Simca pulls to the left during a hard-stop.

But if I went to a carpenter for a lovely bookshelf, a pastry chef for a delicious cake, or even a mechanic because my 1966 Simca 1500 pulls to the left when I brake hard, I’d want to talk to one person. I’d want to tell her my problem or what I need. And I’d want her to take care of fixing it. The last thing I’d want to think about is that my need was handled by committee.

Maybe I’m being too harsh.

Maybe I don’t get the complete picture.

Maybe one person is ultimately responsible but many people helped along the way.

So I could be completely wrong.

I just don’t understand two things.

1.    How an agency makes money this way.
2.    And how anyone has any pride of ownership.

Two things I used to think were pretty important.

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