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When Will it Click?

Posted on October 29, 2009 and read 1,670 times

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Brandon Burns
Copywriter
New York Correspondent
ihaveanidea

How to Give Hot-Air Balloons to Clients, and other Lessons from the Click NY Conference.

It’s 1:40pm on a dreary October day. The ADC gallery is humming with activity. A small crowd of advertising professionals scarf down some decent NY Deli fare as they resettle into their seats to hear thoughts on the future of advertising; specifically, when will this whole digital vs. traditional battle come to a peaceful end.

But the mere make up of the panel may suggest that this so-called war is starting to change. The sides are somewhat unclear.

Leading the traditional “side,” we have ad circuit favorite Ty Montague, Co-President and CCO of JWT North America (seriously can’t go to an ad event in NYC without seeing him). Then we have Mike Geiger from Goodby. But, wait, he’s the Chief Digital Officer. Ogilvy sent Lars Bastholm to fight for them, but he, too, is a digi guy. Imported from AKQA, O&M’s new Chief Digital Creative Officer.

The “traditional side” is looking not so traditional. Nevertheless, the “digital side” is looking pretty darn digital.

Michael “Gimme back my Cannes Lion, BBDO” Lebowitz came to represent Big Spaceship (no, he did not mention the whole HBO/BBDO debacle. That’s old news). Robert Holzer, CEO of Syrup backed him up, along with Tom Sacchi from unit9. None of them had any interest in silly commercials and posters, but then again, neither did the guys from JWT, Goodby, and Ogilvy. What gives?

“Your clients may need hot-air balloons, and you may not have the capacity to make hot-air balloons in-house, so you need to be able to collaborate with someone who can make hot air balloons.” Excuse me, Michael Lebowitz, but what on earth are you talking about?

He soon clarified — and it’s really quite simple. Big Spaceship makes hot-air balloons, in the form of (as they would say) super digitally advanced websites, applications, software, hardware, etc. They specialize in that stuff, mainly because clients are asking for it more and more. I.E. digital is getting big, in case you haven’t heard. “Agencies can only be integrated to a point,” he went on to say. It became apparent that he has zero interest in being everything to every client. Why should he when his shop is great at what they do, and what they do is in high demand? They can focus on it, do it well, and hope that if they build it, people will come.

Not so fast.

“Our policy at JWT is ‘and.’” Ty is trying to get his TV script writers and billboard art layer-outters to play nice with people from places like Big Spaceship… and to do all of it under his roof. A specialist and another specialist and another specialist = a general agency; that seems to be his model. Tom Sacchi from unit9 seemed to inadvertently agree. “If you have a room full of guys who make banners, you’ll only be able to give your clients banners.” I’m not sure if he was trying to say that he should branch out of the digital realm or if it was good to “only be able to make banners,” but unit9 calls themselves a “digital creative production company” on their website and, if you ask most people in this industry, they’ll say “oh, that means they make banners” with a little bit of disdain. But I digress.

So, where did all this back-and-forth net out? At the bank. “The process of qualifying a partner has nothing to do with chemistry,” claims Lebowitz. “It’s about the money.” He went on to share another Lebowitz-esque anicdote about how Big Spaceship was screwed over, but this them by an (unnamed) agency who didn’t want to give them the money they deserved to ideate and produce a concept. Apparently what his company does is expensive. Now, if I’m allowed to draw my own conclusion (this is an editorial, right?) he’s not the only one trying to be the best at one specific thing and charge the appropriate fees for it. So are all the TV commercial makers, print ad creators, event marketing marketers, direct mail mailers, and everyone else. And Econ 101 told me that, based on economies of scale, when you go bulk shopping, stuff’s cheaper. This is why Wal-Mart is the trillion pound gorilla — one-stop shop.  Shouldn’t a client be able to get all these thigns at one agency? It sure as hell would be cheaper.

But then again, Big Spaceship is doing things that Goodby, Ogilvy and JWT can only dream of. And when they dream of it, they call Big Spaceship to execute the dream.

Seems like there are some things this industry still needs to work out. But, seriously, when will it click?






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