Monday, June 30, 2014

Are Ad Agencies Still Cool?

(Back in 2011, one of the largest ad agencies in the world flew this banner over the hordes at the Cannes ad festival. Note the spelling of "famously".)

Short answer: No. Long answer: FUCK No.

Today’s ad agencies are nothing like Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce in the 1960s. They’re not even like Crispin Porter + Bogusky in 2005.

If you’re a young creative, you’re not going to be Don Draper or Peggy Olson or even Stan Rizzo. You’re definitely not going to be Alex Bogusky.

You have no new truly original ideas in your portfolio. You’re lucky if you have even one mildly interesting idea amongst all the hackneyed, derivative dogshit. I know this: I’ve seen your portfolio. 100 fucking times.

Ad students have been sending me their portfolios—nearly daily, unsolicited—for 8 years, asking for advice. I never write them back.

This is my mass response.

If you want a “cool” ad agency creative department job, it’s there, waiting for you (at least at the big mega-merged bloated shops) if you happen to be one of those few young creatives with one (better, two) of those mildly interesting ideas in your portfolio. Because agencies these days are as desperate as a virgin male 2nd semester college senior.

Last fall, freelance designer Murat Mutlu wrote a 2,100 word article, republished to a wide audience on Creative Review, titled: "Why talented creatives are leaving your agency."

If you work at an ad agency, worked at an ad agency, or especially, if you're planning on working at an ad agency: read it. It is well worth your time.

This trend of good copywriters, art directors, and designers bolting or eschewing established ad agencies is not a new one. AdAge published a piece about it back in 2010. But, it is a trend that is gaining momentum, exponentially. Established creatives are heading to social start-ups and media websites. More and more brands are hiring these disgruntled creatives and bringing their ad work in-house.

Meanwhile, as Mutlu says:
"Agencies...are happy to keep trying to live in a world which is ceasing to exist. Clinging onto the same ideas, tools, and ways of working with CEOs who are either oblivious to the current mindset or too frightened to instigate change. It's the perfect storm of increasing entrepreneurialism, decreasing loyalty and an industry reveling in mediocrity."
Of course, all the creative directors at all of ad agencies of all sizes will still use the "C" (creative) and "I" (innovative) words in your interview. If you're a "hotshot" who they're hot to hire and you've got a good feeling about the place, tell them you'd like to freelance for a couple of months first. Facades are easy to erect.

Unless you have inside info, it’s hard to tell how “creative” an ad agency’s work environment is. One clue is to look at is the agency’s own self-promo stuff.

I've gathered together some recent agency self-promo and recruitment ads/videos/staff press photos—instances where ad agencies try to show the world just how fucking cool they really are.

Take a look, and see if these seem like the kind of places you'd like to spend working 10, 12 (or more, depending on the shop) hours a day.

The Ungar Group: "No Regrets"

Chicago's Ungar Group aired this spot, locally, during an April episode of last season's Mad Men.

Copy: "If you're looking for an advertising agency and don't meet with The Ungar Group. you will regret it for the rest of your lives."

Why is the man a zombie? I think they were trying to reference the Walking Dead (also on AMC). Why would you give your money to this ad agency? Because you're fucking brain dead. Back in 2007, Ungar created another cracking self-promo video where they threatened a kitten with a .357 Magnum.

SapientNitro "Idea Engineers"

SapientNitro has 37 offices worldwide, and is considered a "hot" "edgy" digital ad agency. What happened here with this auto-tuned "rap" song, I'm educatedly guessing, is one of the upper management guys desperately wanted to show off his guitar "skills".

"We're thinking not sinking..." Idea Engineers...

Planet Earth deserves to be destroyed by the Volgons because of this video.

DigitasLBi: "Inheritance"

This is the shop where every young "digital" creative wants to work. Their logo is a unicorn.
From the press note about the ad:
"...we're firm believers in practicing what we preach. And what we preach is that creating content that intrigues, engages and even entertains is a much better way of getting noticed than slavishly manufacturing marketing messages. We also believe in being brave (how quaint) and giving new things a try...Inheritance isn't about who we are, what we do or even what we think about the world. It is however meant to be so very us (what?)."
I'm disappointed they didn't slip "storytelling" in there somewhere.

Do you want your two minutes back? Write them, and ask them to get their magical fucking unicorn to make it happen.

How bout some print promo ads.

"JWT Brazil. 76 years (old), so what?"

TBWA Poland.


Now, some staff press photos (click for closer looks).

Press photos from two firms considered "hot" and "creative". L—El Segundo's David & Goliath. GET IT? R—NYC's Sagmeister & Walsh. They're wearing space helmets because they're "explorers". They're naked because they're morons.

Both Philadelphia's Red Tettemer & Partners (L) and BBH NYC (R) go the hadouken route. WHO HAD IT FIRST?
(agency promo photos via Business Insider)

In conclusion: stop sending me your portfolios, and drop out of ad school.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:59 AM  
Anonymous Dan said...

I reckon that Sapient ad went down a storm in India. It may be tacky to you, but looks spot on for their target audience for local recruitment.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Sycamore said...

"Hordes" = crowds. "Hoards" = hidden supplies.

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is blogging about advertising still cool though? I mean, even Bob Garfield left!


9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ya spelled "hordes" wrong dummy.

9:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I pity the students who sent their work for review to you. If I was a student, I wouldn't do that, as I've never seen any of your work. How brilliant is it? You've been ranting for over a decade now, and yet you keep all your work under wraps.

12:58 PM  
Blogger copyranter said...

Thank you, horde of anonymous cowards.

I've shown my work many times in the last ten years——to people offering me freelance creative jobs, not for free to anonymous cowards like you.

7:49 AM  
Anonymous Bob Garfield said...

Mark Copyranter assails "anonymous cowards?" My head hurts.

BTW, criticism is not the process of saying "this is cool" or "this sucks." It is about argument, evidence, rigor and basic humanity. A little worldliness doesn't hurt, either.

If Mark Copyranter, Steve Hall and George Parker (to name a few self-styled gurus) are critics, I'm Leo fuckin' Burnett.

9:38 PM  
Blogger copyranter said...

If you are in fact the pompous Bob Garfield, the self-proclaimed "ad critic who is never wrong", the ad "critic" who has never created an ad in his pathetic life, who doesn't understand one thing about what it takes to create a good/effective ad——everybody knows my real name It's here:
and on the first page of Google search.
Rigor, you say? RIGOR. Ladies and Gents and anonymous cowards, what the old cunt means by that is: filling up column inches with hot air to make more money.
You wanna actually, really insult me directly, you gutless hack, hit me up. copyranter@gmail.
I haven't put somebody's face through the back of their skull outside of a hockey rink in a long time. And I'm unemployed and my father's dying of terminal cancer; I'm itching to destroy another human being who deserves it. That would be you.
Maybe I'll just come down and hang out outside the WNYC building. You carry?

6:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lighten up, guy.
It's the internet - all of us want to point out how 'SPECIAL' we are in catching a syntax error in a post about a misspelling from a copywriter that clearly knows what he's doing.

Most of us come to the site because we love your takedowns and snark, directed at people and an industry that so richly deserves it. And a lot of us are just lazy asses about creating IDs or any of that shit.

Sorry to hear about your father's condition and employment outlook. You don't mention anything about looking for gigs on the site... Couldn't hurt to get it out there.

10:02 AM  
Blogger copyranter said...

..."who" clearly knows what he's doing. FTFY, as the kids say.

And this blog's audience wouldn't do dick for me, as far as work opportunities go.

1:14 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home