March 26, 2007

advertising 2.0 does not exist


I've been having a lot of advertising-related conversations recently. Here are some thoughts that keep popping up:

1. There will always be a market for somebody who can sell your stuff better than you can. Advertising 2.0 does not exist. Marketing 2.0 does not exist. Whatever new tech and media comes along, this simple truth remains.

2. It takes at least nine months to conceive and launch a full-on, mainstream Madison Avenue ad campaign. Nine months is a long time, if you ask me. The world changes faster than that. No wonder Madison Avenue is so damn unhappy all the time.

3. I find both Saatchi's "Lovemarks" and its sequel, "The Lovemarks Effect" [links here] utterly unreadable. Together they form a shallow and vapid tragicomedy, of sorts. Which is a pity, because on another level I quite agree with Saatchi CEO, Kevin Roberts central Lovemarks thesis, i.e. that Love is what drives our new marketing realities. And he obviously an extremely smart and capable guy. But what started out as a great idea from a lone individual has been utterly butchered by the grim realities of his employer's already-existing business model.


4. Have you also noticed how on the cover of "The Love Marks Effect", there's a picture of all these small metal cookie cutters, shaped like love hearts? What are you saying, Guys? "Cookie Cutter Love"? I know. Unfortunate. Sad. Comic. All that.

5. Saatchi & Saatchi: "We're not an ad agency, we're an ideas business." Right. Oh well, I'm sure they're trying to get there one day. Maybe they'll succeed. Who knows.

6. So a lot of clients have been recently asking their ad agencies, "So what can you do for us in Web 2.0?" And the agencies have been replying, "Lots! Lots and lots and lots and lots!" Bullshit. Ad agencies have so far been hopeless in this space. I don't know of ONE SINGLE piece of work coming out of a traditional ad agency in the last five years that has been even halfway original, thought provoking or effective. Captain Morgan's? Beyond lame. Juicy Fruit? Beyond lame on steroids. Glenfiddich? A missed opportunity.

7. Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the very fine London ad agency, used to pitch their clients, "We makes brands famous". Right. Like movie stars. Like celebs. Like the guys getting out of the limos and walking down the red carpet. Like the ones who get all the money and invites to the fancy parties. While the rest of us stand behind the velvet rope out in the cold, looking in with longing. Great. Super. Lucky us.

8. I am totally with Mark Earls, who in his seminal book, "Death of Marketing", wrote, to paraphrase: The word "Brand" is a very silly one. It's pretty meaningless. Instead, ask yourself what your enterprise is actually for. Define yourself in terms of an actual "Purpose-Idea" [I love that term, which he coined btw], instead of an abstract object. Think verb, instead of noun.

9. The good news for Google Adsense is, it seems to work. Or at least, it seems to do what it says it does. The bad news is, if it's the only game in town, its monopoly on a certain type of advertising [the type that requires relatively little thought, basically] means with so many people joining the throng with nowhere else to go, Hello, obscene price rises etc.

10. Live by SEO, die by SEO.

11. I've never flown on Jet Blue, I've never seen a Jet Blue commercial, I've never been on their website. But I know all about Jet Blue, and think highly of it. Why? Because bloggers I know are always talking about it. This is exactly what Seth Godin means by "remarkable" i.e. People. Like. Talking. About. It. If you happen to have a unremarkable product, I suppose you have no choice but to do a remarkable ad campaign, like Crispin Porter's "Burger King" campaign. That is, if your boss or client will let you. Which is unlikely.

12. If somebody looks like they're trying to impress you with their "future of advertising" credentials, ask them if they they themselves have their own blog. If they don't, they're full of it. It's a good acid test. Just my opinion.

Posted by hugh macleod at March 26, 2007 12:12 AM | TrackBack

This is an interesting subject. I'm currently applying for jobs in London and so am talking to lots of people from small and large agencies. It would appear that a couple of things are happening:

a) The big ad agencies haven't got a clue about 'web2.0' and are frantically trying to get one.

b) The little agencies are beating the big ad agencies in pitches for big digital accounts. Why? Because they have the skills and the know-how. At the moment the big guys have neither.

Don't think it'll stay this way for long though. The big guys have oodles of cash. Which will probably buy them some cool people.

Posted by: Dan at March 26, 2007 3:09 PM

I'm so glad to have recently finished "Confessions of an Advertising Man" for my first time. David Ogilvy, circa 1963, cuts away the crap, flushes away the total bullshit and lets you know that advertising is to frickin sell things. A great Scotsman, for sure! I do wonder how Ogilvy 2.0 would have written the same book ...

Posted by: Mike Peter Reed at March 26, 2007 3:17 PM

The thing about ad agencies is that they just dont get it. Never have, never will. And if they ever manage to get it it's five years too late. People who work at ad agenies are too involved in they're own little world to realize what's happening in the real world. If they're not the one's setting the trends and making things happen then no one is.

Posted by: Egill at March 26, 2007 3:42 PM

I have long been sceptical about ad agencies. Some years ago when I worked for a company that could afford such an indulgence I worked with an agency that had smart offices in Soho and employed an "Account Executive" who it seemed was employed solely to pour me wine during meetings. Nowadays I don't use agencies, don't advertise and wouldn't even if we could afford it!

Better to go where people gather and talk to them I find.

Posted by: Clive Birnie at March 26, 2007 4:29 PM


Lovemarks and the follow up were written, edited, rewritten, printed, marketed, sold, etc etc. Took a lot of time.

Hugh you post about the books and I think to myself, "Eh, I guess I don't need to read those books anymore."

The world has changed

Posted by: Kevin Behringer at March 26, 2007 5:04 PM

If you happen to have an unremarkable product, then give up.

Posted by: John Dodds at March 26, 2007 5:08 PM


Similar notions published here at the Canadian Marketing Association blog.

Why there will never be a web 3.0!

check it.

Read it and Reap!


Posted by: collin at March 26, 2007 5:26 PM

Hugh's dead right.

The trouble with most attempts to scope the future of advertising (as agencies and their erm...challengers put it) is this: they've misunderstood advertising (and its 1-to-1 offshoots various) as means to send messages (data-streaming, if you like).

This leads them to worry about the bandwidth of the 'channels' down which they stream the data-bits.

Let's be clear. Advertising has never really worked that way. It's a behaviour that happens between people (not "at" people). As Robert Heath of Bath Uni has recently shown, it's not the message that shapes response but the affective content (the creative bits if you like).

If it's any good, people interact around it. They tell each other about it. It has "social utility" as the buzzphrase has it.

The neat thing about this way of thing (apart from it being plausible of course) is that it forces us to consider what a brand does alongside

Of course, there's a short-cut: make better stuff. Stuff so good folk tell each other about it. Stuff that encapsulates your purpose-idea and makes it visible to one and all. Stuff that makes it seem like you believe what you say you believe...

Posted by: Mark E at March 26, 2007 6:54 PM

I get sick to death of reading all the people who comment on this blog who have nothing but criticism for the agencies who (by and large) try their damndest to make things work.

Tell me a direct marketer who hasn't been programmed with test, test, test into their system. Does EVERY agency (or client) get it right FIRST time? No

Admittedly some agencies are greedy money-sucking plagiarists but these are in the minority.

To make such dramatic statements that most of the agencies out there are stupid, don't get web 2.0* and are doomed to failure is just sheer jumping on the bandwagon.

*(whatever the fuck web 2.0 means - give me 10 people who can give me the same definition and I'll give you 1000 more who can't)

I wouldn't even be surprised if half the people who say the agency world is shit even USE agencies.

But by god, I bet they are the same people who forward on those annoying little embedded video emails sent by their colleagues...falling right into the trap they so criticise the agencies for setting.

So some agencies are late to see the benefits of new media and some (like my own) don't even understand its benefits at all but reading some of these comments, you'd think the world was about to implode.

Lets get real.

Posted by: Paul Fabretti at March 26, 2007 10:03 PM

The circles (I run in) are full of square people.

I think paying attention to your advice is going to knock their blocks off when I get it all together!

...I am still working on doing cool shit. If I ever do accomplish something cool, I promise to let you know what hospital emergency room I am in.

Much appreciation. R

Posted by: RKR at March 26, 2007 11:26 PM

Wow. You. Nailed. It. There are so many organizations out there talking the talk without walking the walk (sorry for the cliche, but it's entirely appropriate). When an agency thinks "interactive" is solely landing pages, buttons, rich media banners and HTML emails - all one-way messaging - there's something wrong. It's not that agencies & marketers have to be all Web 2.0 all the time; but they do need to be aware of the power of these conversations and understand how to effectively and authentically get involved. Sticking their collective head in the sand and continuing to focus on 30-second spots is not going to do it.

Posted by: Scott Monty at March 27, 2007 2:28 AM

6. Subservient Chicken. (Don't know who produced it tho'}

Great post Hugh.

Posted by: Les at March 27, 2007 5:45 AM

My question is: "How would How"ard Gossage do ads today ?

Posted by: Hans Suter at March 27, 2007 9:06 AM

Seeing as how I work within the Publicis Group (and also often with Saatchis) I feel I should stick-up for poor old Kevin Roberts.

The concept of an ideas agency was clever - visionary even considering this was launched at least ten years ago. The problem is that it has become an advertising ideas agency.

You are also right about Lovemarks - it has a fundamental truth at its heart - but is packaged in old-school nonsense. Kevin Roberts needs to become socialised - an interesting challenge!

Anyway - here is my attempt at the Future of Advertising. I have a blog so I hope I pass the acid test.

Posted by: Richard Stacy at March 27, 2007 1:12 PM


I am proud to admit I work in a big agency, a very big one. We are not dumb, nor lazy, nor greedy. We won't be any of these things if and when we work in a small agency, or a digital agency, or in our own business. We do the best work we can - ALL THE TIME. Its people that define their work, not the size/shape/structure of the agency. The agency with the best people will win (with consumers and therefore clients)everytime, regardless of whether they are big, small, digital or whatever. The beauty of cultural and technological convergence is we can all compete with all types of agency, all over.

Sometimes our clients let us go create stuff in PlayStation Home, or secondlife, sometimes they let us create experiences for people to shape a brand their way, when they want it and how they want it, sometimes they let us invent new services and products to better serve a better consumer. And some times they don't.

I enjoyed your post, but some of your assumptions about "big agencies" are off whack. Come see my "big agency" in Latvia and I'll show you breathtaking integration and innovation, same in London LA or wherever. If you're not looking for beauty you won't find it though.

Posted by: Simon at March 27, 2007 1:24 PM

Richard Stacy, nice post, I read it. Food for thought etc. Thanks.

I certainly don't have it in for Kevin Roberts. From what I understand he is a brilliant and passionate man. And nothing would make me happy than to see Saatchi's morph into "An Ideas Company", whatever that means...

Posted by: hugh macleod at March 27, 2007 1:51 PM

Not only is there no Advertising 2.0, there is no Web 2.0 either. There are people, living and trying to do the best they can under the circumstances. Interruptions are unwelcome. A bit of help wouldn't go amiss ;)

Posted by: void at March 27, 2007 3:23 PM

Re: only people who write blogs are authorised to talk about the future of marketing? That's like saying that only professional musicians can make music! I'm sure there's a slight correlation but you sound completely self-righteous.

Posted by: terra t at March 27, 2007 4:57 PM

I could not agree more. Advertising agencies claim that they are reacting to the changing consumer and media landscape but are they really? I'd say for the majority it's currently lipservice- big, bulky advertising is what they continue to sell and anything else they offer under the banner 'Ideas' or 'Creative Engagement' is offered to support the claim that they are changing. In their defence, at the moment the new business models do not support bulky advertising agencies so they continue to try and make hay before the rewards run out.

Posted by: Ben Carter at March 27, 2007 6:10 PM

Hugh, I have to disagree with you, for obvious reasons -

Posted by: Robin Grant at March 27, 2007 7:04 PM

It is clear that not all the big advertising agencies have got it... but it is true too that many of them still keep the power of the major part of marketing budget for brands... So it would be nice too see all the brands going for blog, word of mouth marketing,... but even if a move is definitely starting, there is still a long way to go to see the whole industry changing... and I am not sure they are really wanting to let the big money on advertising space purchase to leave by giving up 30 seconds TV spots...
At least the first brands going for a more collaborative marketing approach will certainly gain some steps in the global competition... I truly believe people want to be part of... and not only a running target...

Posted by: Emmanuel Vivier ( at March 27, 2007 8:30 PM

"6. Subservient Chicken. (Don't know who produced it tho'}"


Posted by: makethelogobigger at March 27, 2007 9:51 PM

Maybe we just need to stop calling it "advertising".

PS, I have a blog. I hope I pass the test. :)

Posted by: David Armano at March 28, 2007 6:17 PM

You pass the test, David ;-) I wasn thinking more along the lines of the MSM agencies.... the big Madison Ave ones.

Though a friend of mine, a well-known blogger recently started working full time at one of the big Madison Avenue agencies, to clue them up on Web 2.0. It seems from what she said that they're still in the "getting over the fear" stage. I imagine that'll last a few more years... then perhaps they'll settle into something a bit more adventurous.

It takes a while for these things to spread throughout the entire culture.

Posted by: hugh macleod at March 28, 2007 6:40 PM

"I wasn't thinking more along the lines of the MSM agencies.... the big Madison Ave ones."

You would be suprised. The digital agencies also have our work cut out for us. But we're getting there... :)

Posted by: David Armano at March 28, 2007 6:54 PM

What the heck, as soon as i mentioned Armano as a good counter example, he just commented :)

Anyway, here's my 2 cents:

I have a different opinion on it’s post title: marketing and advertising have a body of knowledge with more than 50 years, so it’s quite silly to dump all that just because we have some new tools. If Advertising 2.0 doesn’t exist, then it should be invented, formulated, whatever fits these wonderful times.
If Hugh bothers to read David Armano, Martina or AdverLab, he’ll notice there’s some brilliant people out there working to bring this new kind of advertising forward. But i suppose he’s never worked at an advertising agency, so it’s easy for him to make such assumptions.
You just can’t see the forest for the trees, so it’s better not to label all advertising a “has-been”.

Posted by: Armando Alves at March 28, 2007 7:06 PM

C'mon Hugh... spill! Who is it trying to impress with their future of online advertising credentials, who doesn't have a blog?

Posted by: Andrew Goodman at March 28, 2007 8:48 PM

Hi Hugh,

I just got back from a youth marketing conference and I asked everyone speaking about "new media" if they had a blog - surprisingly not a lot did. I think the best benchmark of this whole "advertising 2.0" thing truly is drinking the kool aid. How many of these consultants use social networking sites? track the latest sites and actually sign up for them? Know the real coding behind implementing these widgets and new technologies for a blog or any website?

Oh, and if "advertising 2.0 does not exist" my blog tagline does not exist:(

I see this phrase as the easiest way to simplify what I am talking about sometimes. People need small amounts of information to digest - any long explanation and they glaze over...

Posted by: Eric at March 29, 2007 7:02 PM

I truly think the broad picture is Culture 2.0.

I also find it interesting that the prefixes we use today or not nouns or adjectives ( Golden Age, Silver, Industrial ), no we're embracing numerals as a sign of change and progress.

Advertising ( communications in itself ) need to create relevancy and an overall life enhancing benefit. Selling will become just an extension there after.

If adsense dominates, essentially making 'selling' automatic, great. It leaves me and our clients more time to focus on creating ideas, products and services with relevancy that will eventually succeed on their own merits.

Less bullshit all together.

Posted by: Marc at March 30, 2007 5:14 PM

"6. Subservient Chicken. (Don't know who produced it tho'}"


Crispin has the account and did the strategy and creative direction, but Barbarian Group did the actual production.

But whatever. Crispin isn't really a Big Agency in the way that Ogilvy or whoever is a Big Agency, so take from that what you will.

Posted by: John at March 30, 2007 11:39 PM