The Truth About Advertising Agencies

“Have you ever seen ‘Mad Men?’”

I think I have seen two episodes, but I am not familiar enough with the series to discuss it intelligently. When I receive this question, it is usually followed by additional inquiries of what I do for a living. The only current common frame of reference I hear is “Mad Men.” Before this, it was the television show “Bewitched.”

The fascination with the advertising industry is the final creative since that is what reaches the public. Coming up with a campaign is much more than the creative.  It is a lot more than having the right idea. While I cannot say that TV is inaccurately portraying the process, their goal its to tell a good story. Sometimes facts get in the way of drama.

One lure that marketing has for me is that I get the opportunity to learn other businesses.  I have to understand a product or service to be able to effectively market it.  I get to see the process. For industries, I get to tour the plant. Each business has its own language. Each business has its own personality. Companies are like fingerprints – they may have a similar size and shape, but no two companies are exactly alike.

I enjoy research. I enjoy interacting with others. I like finding out answers to things that are new to me. Often I will hear a question, which may be rhetorical, and I will pull out my smartphone to get an answer. I have one client who will request, “Ty, pull out your magic box and find out….” I usually find the answer though on occasion I have found it necessary to use the smartphone to call a librarian for assistance.

Creative sessions are fun too. If we’re not prepared, though, it may call for more research. The more knowledge we have, the more relevant we can be with the creative. And, I use plural pronouns with the creative process because it is a collaborative effort.  In my company everyone is part of the creative process. As Tom Robinson, the chairman of the company, is fond of saying, “The good ideas will rise to the top.”

Once the creative is approved, the implementation phase of the process starts. The creative has to get to the customer, and the creative has to get the customer to act. So, here comes research again. There are a lot of factors that help determine which media and which vehicles are chosen.

A great idea certainly helps a campaign. As shown, there is a lot more than just the great idea that becomes an advertising campaign.

In the Cary Grant film “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,” advertising account executive Mr. Blandings (Cary Grant) spends most of the movie worried about saving his firm’s account with Wham brand ham when he’s not preoccupied with his house being built. His job is saved when he triumphantly comes up with the perfect slogan that he overhears his maid say to the family at breakfast.

It makes for good drama. And, I recommend the movie. But, that’s not usually how an advertising agency works.

Originally published on page 17 of the October, 2015 issue of the Northeast Mississippi Business Journal in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

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