Ad agencies don’t always enjoy the sunniest of reputations. I hear the skinny. We are often viewed as slickster snake oil salesmen who can’t be trusted. We look to latch onto the tender throats of our clients and suck them dry.
We steal our ideas from awards books; we recycle campaigns from other clients; we make up ads for non-existent clients to win trophies.
We under perform. (A 2% response rate on a DM piece is considered a success. Imagine if doctors or lawyers hit those kind of numbers!)
I have heard them all. Witnessed a few to be sure. But the toughest to reconcile is the one about us being bloodsuckers.
We don’t gouge our clients. I have never worked in an agency that did and I don’t know any that survive long if they do.
But we’re a business and we don’t want to just survive. We want to make a profit, as any business does. How can we help our clients’ businesses grow if we can’t even make a profit ourselves?
We want to re-invest in our company, buy new technology, send people for training so we can keep them up to date. All this has an impact on how we work, and therefore how good we are.
More important than any of that though: we want to be paid what we feel we’re worth. There’s nothing more demoralizing to a group of overachievers like most agencies have than to be under-valued. We are realistic about what our clients can afford, but every advertising person reading this post has worked for a client at some stage in their career who seemed to take a perverse pleasure in screwing the agency’s margins down into the red.
Blood red, if you ask me.
Agencies work hard to be good corporate citizens. Of course we do lots of charity work. But we also take on paying jobs at a loss, because we believe in the job and we love the client. And not always just for the “creative opportunity”, but because it makes us feel good about how we can put our talents to use.
I don’t think you hear enough about that on the ad agency rap sheet.