4 Nov 2014

Can You Imagine Ad Agencies Without Creatives?

Well, the ad agency without creatives just might be the future... Even Sir Martin Sorrell says he thinks the industry needs "Math men not Mad Men".

For an ad agency, profits on retainer fees and media commissions are wafer thin. Bigger budgets and fatter profit margins are on production work (print, digital or activation) that are typically done externally by 'specialists'.

Naturally, agency bean-counters will increasingly focus on pushing for expensive external productions, rather than internal creatives. And it'll be the slick salesmen (the "suits") who'll become the 'profit-centres', rather than the creative teams. This will have a knock-on effect on recruitment, incentives, promotions, and retention.

Agencies may end up with a rump creative dept. (a glorified studio set-up) that churns out the relatively 'low value' stuff that keeps retainer-paying clients "happy" -- while increasingly relying on freelancers for big ideas on pitches and big campaigns.

Eventually, ad agencies will turn to Plug 'n' Play Creative specialists. (I'd touched on this possibility in a post in March 2010.)

Ultimately, we must remember that 'creatives' is NOT the ad agency's raison d'etre... Ad agencies began as boring media commission agents -- the enterprising ones merely threw in good copywriting and impactful visualising as a 'value add' or differentiator. The crest of this 'creative is king' wave was Bill Bernbach and the 'Mad Men' era.

Like it or not, that wave is ebbing... simply, because it is no longer the most profitable business model.