Ideas forever

Let’s be less nice to ourselves

I was recently at, and then kindly asked to write a blog for, the Amplify festival from the Marketing Society. It was a nice day and I wrote a friendly blog about it for them. And maybe that’s the trouble.

These are the rest of my feelings.

(Amplify, and Graeme, please note, these are not directed at your event. It was a good day, and did its job – provoking me to think – thank you)

It was a ‘nice’ event. I enjoyed it. But perhaps we as an industry are too complacent, easy and ‘nice’ to each other and ourselves. For me, the talks were good, and the topics appropriate, but the most important moment was when an agency person did the right thing by her agency, and got noticed by asking Diageo ‘why they didn’t hire any Scottish agencies?’ It was a good question. It was ‘unnice’. And I don’t suggest she’s wrong to ask it. But…

Perhaps, the truth is, while it caused the client an awkward moment, the real awkward moment was the unspoken knowledge that the client would have chosen a Scottish agency, if they knew we were capable of delivering work at that level. And I’m not talking about any particular agency, I’m talking about 80% of agencies, 80% of the time.

So, should we not be asking ourselves, why the client hasn’t chosen us? So, I’ll ask it of me, mine, and if you don’t mind (don’t care if you do really), the rest of the industry. Why hasn’t Diageo hired a Scottish agency? I believe it’s because we’re too soft on ourselves and complacent with our outputs. There was a room full of exceptionally smart talented people at the festival, and collectively we won zero Cannes last year. Or the year before…

What new initiatives has anyone put in place to counter this? To take learnings from? To be the change?

My unnice thought is that we stop producing easy work, and start really thinking. Remember it takes as much hard work thinking of a good idea, as it does to think of an exceptional idea. So, let’s think harder and deeper about what we do. Let’s aim to produce work that people care about; that affects culture, that gets noticed by real people with busy lives; work that artists might have done, and builders might talk about; that goes beyond making people smile, and makes them think, care, feel and have a little bit of respect for your brand.

Diageo kicked off the Amplify Festival with their Ogilvy talk on equality and gender bias. And they seemed to mean it. And the work they are doing seems to be really trying to earn their products and brands a place in the world – Guinness ‘Made of More’ encourages people to be themselves, fight their fight, dig deep into their hearts, buck the trends and be themselves – be more. Smirnoff’s ‘We’re Open’ campaign encourages and supports an open-minded attitude. Hell, even Captain Morgan is on a mission to get people to enjoy being more, well, pirate?

Is there anyone here who wouldn’t like to put their name to Made of More? And is there any work that you’ve done that lives up to it?

This is work that strives to not just amuse their audiences, and not just to get them to understand their message, and consider their product – this is work that aims to have a role in their lives, to change and push culture, to be a platform for good.

Again, for clarity, this isn’t about the lovely, determined, smart-as-feck woman asking the heartfelt question – I love your spirit and guts and you’re considered someone who’s leading the way. This is about me, my agency, and anyone else who wants to be more significant on a global stage looking to ourselves to earn those clients. Let’s take our work more seriously. We used to be a significant industry; working in partnership with clients to create significant work, that helped our clients win. Let’s ask ourselves what it’ll take to get back there.

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