By Ron Owens
When talking shop with fellow advertising agency principals, it is easy to see why so many clients find it difficult when it comes to selecting an advertising agency. While ad agencies may not pass for paragons of virtue, almost without exception ad agency CEOs, both male and female, are bright, personable, smart, well-informed, and very sharp.
The words they use are familiar, whether it be ‘great’ advertising, ‘unique’ advertising, ‘selling’ advertising or whatever is inscribed on the particular battle standard they fly. Ad agencies are marketing-oriented or business-oriented, however, that pennant may read. The business problems they discuss bear a remarkable resemblance. But there is a single subtle difference which comes through very clearly. And when thinking back to other names and faces over the years, it becomes a fairly definitive line.
Some are in business to make money. They do this through advertising. Some are in business to create wonderful advertising, thereby making money. The first category has a far higher percentage of winners.
It can explain why some of the greatest talents have never fully achieved their due greatness and the peripheral benefits, such as money. Others, sometimes even less gifted, have not built bigger and better, but get a nicer reception at the bank.
There is no reason why people whose primary objective is profit cannot manage a business which turns out exceptional advertising, nor any reason why the reverse cannot be true. The two objectives are obviously not mutually exclusive. Yet there is an inherent weakness in one position and strength in the other. It has been argued that all businesses are 85% alike. You produce a service or product at a given cost, sell it, collect the money, pay vendors, suppliers, sub-contractors and keep what you hope is a nice difference.
Profit has to do with organization and productivity, which big business works at incessantly, as well as what you charge and collect. “We don’t charge for that, but we should,” is an all–too–common agency lament. The way car dealerships include and exclude ‘standard’ equipment lets you know they are not doing you any favors. We, in advertising, argue endlessly that award-winning advertising will or will not sell more products and / or services. And that argument will continue ad infinitum.
Ron Owens is President of Ron Owens & Associates, a marketing consultancy which specializes in market development, branding, diversity, equity and inclusion. Prior to his current position, Ron is the Co-Founder / Principal, LMO Advertising, served as VP, TMP Worldwide; Director, Worldwide Advertising & PR, Pitney Bowes, Inc., a Fortune 500 Company, and VP, Bozell Worldwide. He has also served as Governor, 4A’s, Region II; Lt Governor, AAF Region III; Committee Chair, ANA: Past President, Ad Club of Metropolitan Washington, DC and is current Vice Chair, Better Business Bureau. Ron can be reached via Ronowens221@yahoo.com
Photo by Karolina Grabowska