Jul 23, 2007

Toad Predicts

Sometime in the next year, one of the interweb-only agencies like Razorfish or RGA is going to do a fairly clever online campaign for one of their (packaged goods) clients that the client absolutely loves. Later that week, the same client will see yet another mediocre TV-centric campaign from their offline agency that's bombed in whatever sort of snake oil testing program they put it through.

Frustrated, the client will give the interweb shop the chance to do the offline work as well, telling them to see it as an extension of the much-loved (and much clicked-through) online campaign.

The interweb shop will do a decent job on the offline work, certainly no worse than what the traditional agency has presented. The client will buy it, and, when they see the cost savings, will pull the account and give the whole kit and caboodle to the interweb shop.

Much will be made of this in the ad trades and the mainstream business press. Everyone will point out that this is the first time an interweb shop is doing print and TV (probably false, but it makes for better copy) and that this is first mainstream ad campaign that’s designed around an online concept, with TV playing a supporting rather than leading role. (Ditto.)

Traditional agency creatives will rail against the campaign, correctly pointing out that it’s a rip-off of something done in Belgium for a similar client back in the mid-90s that got into CA, and regardless, it’s just not very good. While they’re busy bitching and moaning however, their bosses will be commanding them to work with their (allegedly integrated) online brethren to come up with a similar campaign that’s all about the online component.

Most of the traditional agencies—and their clients-- won’t really get it, so we’ll see a spate of campaigns featuring 30 second TV commercials with longer, YouTube “viral” versions (all shot by Pytka) that drive to a pointless website where you can read all the copy the agency convinced the client didn’t need to be in the TV commercial or viral video.

Meanwhile, other clients, unhappy with their agencies, will begin shifting accounts to the interweb shops. The marketing teams that do this will be rewarded for (a) saving so much money and (b) being so forward thinking. The work that comes out of the interweb shops won’t win any awards but won’t be noticeably worse than 90% of what comes out of traditional agencies. The only noticeable difference will be that some of the TV work will be informed by a more flash and video game derived visual sensibility and will look much better on an an iPhone screen than a 50 inch HDTV one.

Traditional agencies will bitch and moan about how bad the creative from the interweb shops is, but slowly, more and more clients will shift their accounts, probably even one or two really big ones.

After a year or two of this, some interweb agency is going to stumble upon the sort of “big idea” that pleases award show judges and Miami Portfolio Circus Center students. The campaign will clean up at The One Show and Cannes (but not D&AD, where it will be shut out) and everyone will be clamoring to have their agency/creative department come up with something just like it.

You read it here first.


Anonymous said...

I think you're spot on, Toad.

In fact, aside from the big account shifts, a lot of this is already happening (i.e. traditional creatives bashing the work of their internet brethren while the head honchos ask for every creative concept to now fall out of something that's "not print or TV.")

All the more reason to be a specialist in your field. Talented writers, art directors, designers and animators will always be needed, if not by the BDAs then by the interweb shops.

The only people who should be worried are those who are used to getting a fat check for just coasting along on creative cliches and familiar formats that only live in kneejerk media reccos. Though I'm sure many of them will find a way to hang on for a few years. There are still a lot of really lame advertisers out there, after all, and the snake oil testing industry ain't going away without a fight.

I will say, though, that the pain of working under those head honchos who now want every assignment to have a web component so they can show their clients how "with it" they are is definitely a drag. That shit turns even the simplest assignment into a complete re-branding project. If clients only knew how their money was currently being spent.
(And by spent, I of course mean wasted.)

Frankly, I wish some of them would go ahead and change their AOR to an interweb shop so I can get a job there. Maybe then I could work on some real projects with internet guys who really know their stuff vs. spending all my time overcompensating for my boss's "new media" inferiority complex while still trying to come up with kickass TV and print because the media's already been bought.

Yes, apparently someone forgot to tell the media department that we're all "media agnostic" now.
How ironic. And freakin' pathetic.

RFB said...

I believe you 100%. If you were to form a cult (or an agency - same thing) I'd join you.

Anonymous said...

hah. jetpacks is right. you should start your own agency. i did. it's easy.

it's clear you know your stuff. and it's the only way to take advantage of the confusion/stupidity going on in our biz now.

Alan Wolk said...

@JetPacks & Sixth Reader: A cult might be more fun. You get to have secret handshakes and all that ;)

Seriously though, I've often thought about starting my own shop-- just needed a client willing to share that thought and pay the bills.

How long ago did you start your place, Sixth Reader? Do you specialize in any area (e.g. pharma, interactive, b2b)? Whereabouts are you (general location)?


Anonymous said...

started it last year. we basically do what's right for right now. the thinking being that if we just keep up with what's going on, we'll be doing plenty.

so we do websites, tv, whatever. we tend to approach things from a media point of view. because it seems to make sense. audience creation, basically.

it's exciting. and it's great not to be bogged down by the mistakes/heritage/BS of others. based in the midwest.

HighJive said...

Do you really think your predictions are breakthrough? Seems pretty obvious to me. But I’ll predict your prediction comes true before a minority agency is awarded an opportunity to spearhead a major assignment.

Alan Wolk said...

@HJ: Grumpy much ;)
Seriously though, I don't think this is a breakthrough prediction as much as an honest one: Interweb shops will tell you that they're going to get accounts because they "get" the changes in consumers and the marketplace better than traditional agencies and traditional agencies will tell you the exact opposite.

As for minority agencies, you're forgetting a key point: for a client to give a minority shop the lead on an account, Madison Avenue would have to actually admit that these shops exist. Seriously, HJ, the fact that we have this bizarre apartheid Negro League of ad agencies is something the industry likes to keep hidden in a trunk up in the attic or something. A lot of people outside the industry who I've mentioned it to are somewhat incredulous that it still exists.
I'd love for you and maybe Hadji to do a guest post on here about it- we can discuss that offline at some point.

HighJive said...

Actually, I was being half-serious with the original remarks. There was/is a minor incidence of the phenomenon in Chicago, where the State Lottery account is handled by a minority shop that bested the usual suspects vying for the work. Of course, the White agencies will insist a host of political reasons led to the win. As if lottery accounts (or any accounts, for that matter) are ever awarded for political reasons. Us adfolks sure hate it when somebody beats us at our own game. A few years ago, P&G instituted an initiative designed to better distribute work to all its agencies, including the minority shops, but it appears to be more smoke and mirrors than reality.

Anonymous said...

I also see something else Toad, which may be the opposite of what you’re predicting: top agencies gobbling up hot interactive shops to boost their capabilities, thus keeping everything in-house.

To your point, the size of the those bigger agencies may be the thing which hurts them. By their nature, they have to have large clients to survive. Which is their catch-22 though: they need anchor clients to build around, but too often, just one or two of those type clients make up half an agency’s billings.

And you know what happens next.

But that's where the small shops you mention can also find value: filling the void left by bigger shops who won't handle the smaller brands because it's not worth their time.

That's my prediction and im sticking to it.

Anonymous said...


Alan Wolk said...

What sort of shops are you talking about, MTLB?

There aren't too many big agencies left: BBDO, DDB, Ogilvy, JWT, Y&R, DraftFCB, Grey, Saatchi maybe Lowe. That's about it in terms of big global network.

And all of those shops have numerous big clients.

Beyond that, if they're buying up smaller shops, they're not integrating them into the mothership. They all have interweb divisions that work together with the traditional creatives, they let the traditional creatives do interweb stuff, etc.

And my prediction was about the sort of big packaged goods clients or financial services clients who almost to a one use big agencies for their advertising. They may give project work to smaller shops, but I was imagining a situation where say, Unilever shifts Trident's TV and print assignment to R/GA, along with the interweb work.

I don't disagree with the fact the big agency NETWORKS (WPP, Omnicom) are buying up places like Digitas and even smaller shops (Plaid?) but that's a very different situation.