Charles Wigley
Jun 28, 2017

How many grown-ups can your agency put in the room?

Advertising is a young person's game, but things have gone too far, writes BBH's Charles Wigley.

Charles Wigley
Charles Wigley

Our industry has, as my mother used to say, got itself into rather a pickle.

Although perhaps that's being a little too polite.

Combine the financial demands of publicly quoted agency networks with the heavy hand of client procurement and you have a business scrambling to just not go backwards too quickly.

Layer in too many agencies' lack of spine in terms of how they are willing to operate and you have a recipe for the dramatic commoditisation we see all around us.

A half a kilo of advertising please....and could you maybe throw in some design and social too? 

It's a negative cycle.

And one of the clear upshots of it is that the industry is increasingly staffed by (sometimes worryingly) overworked youngsters running endlessly in a hamster wheel of client demands they are not always equipped to deal with.

In too many agencies the grown-ups have been asked to leave the building. Simply because they have been deemed to be too expensive.

And yet while advertising has always been a younger person's game, it's the older, experienced ones who can help teams see the bigger picture, get to answers quicker (they've seen the same things so many times) and manage client relationships more effectively.

And so when things like big pitches really need cracking, agencies now fly in their remaining adults from all over the place to quickly move the game on and present a more experienced front.

Naturally enough clients have wised up to this though, and frequently ask just to meet 'the working team'.

Although they are equally complicit in the circumstances that have lead to this situation, I'd probably do exactly the same in their shoes.

So how do we break out of this cycle?

Well, sticking to principals that might actually cost money and charging enough to have the right mix of people to do the job well would be strong starts.

Also quite tough, grown-up decisions.....

Charles Wigley is chairman of BBH Asia Pacific

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