A Guy Walks Into an Ad Agency and Sees A Horse, A Talking Bird and Feather Boa Wearing Women

(Or, I Hear Ogilvy Laughing” Part 1)

I’m reading an amazing, informative book called “Agency” by Rick Webb one of the founders of the Barbarian Group creative agency. I don’t know Rick, so I’m not being paid to endorse his book, but I’m reading it intensely — probably for the third time. It’s an excellent read.

What I like about it is that starts out by saying that we relatively new people in the ad business are so quick to discard words handed down from the Golden Age of Madison Avenue. For example, Webb says that probably the greatest how-to manual on starting a creative agency was written by David Ogilvy’s “Confessions of an Ad Man.” I went back and read my copy of the famous red book and was blown away.

So I am reading them together. Your first question is probably why? I decided when I began rebranding my small agency, CDM Digital Advertising, formerly known as “Carson Dunn Media Advertising,” I decided to ask myself if I truly knew what the advertising game entailed. A second part of that dealt with whether I actually knew how to run an agency. My training in marketing had me approaching my business by the “seat of my pants.”

The creative was good at times, but the execution, the getting there was what difficult than it should have been. This sums up what Rick Webb is saying. Modern creatives tend to believe that their methodology and only theirs works. We need to go with the effective. Sometimes that’s not digital.

When we look at modern advertising, especially messaging in commercials, in the background you can hear Ogilvy laughing. He’s also shaking his head in disgust. Why are we thinking of elaborate images, filming them and sticking it on TV? One of the failures is that we forget the so-called headlines — what the hell is this thing about. Is it about a horse – a talking bird – feather boa wearing women running around a hotel in the dark? And why is that music so damn loud? Shouldn’t you use the time to tell me what I am watching and why?

Actually. I hear Ogilvy cussing. I hear Burnett, Bernbach, Chiat asking and doing the same thing. They’re probably are crying about what we are producing. Their legacy – their gift to us better than what we are presenting.

So, the question we must ask is that how do we go about doing a better job of assisting clients. A second question lays out this way: “How do I improve as an agency owner — if possible.”


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