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16 Reasons Ad Agencies Suck

no offense...

advertising sucks

If you’ve worked in an advertising agency, you know there’s a lot of bullshit. Here are some of those things and why we think we do it better.

1) Substantiation > Inference

When it comes to strategy, your marketing decisions are likely based on a set of inferences. Inferences on surveys, research, and guesstimations. These inferences are never tested. That means your target may not be your target, your messaging might be wrong, and anything else you haven’t substantiated. That’s why we test everything. Cause why guess when you can know?

2) Human > Corporate

You know, sounding like a business rather than sounding like a buddy. One is likeable, one isn't.

3) Original > Unorginal

Just watch this mashup of every ad following the corona crisis.

4) Project-Based > Time-Based

If an agency charges you by the hour they profit off inefficiency. They justify inflated staff plans, drag their feet, and unnecessarily draw out timelines.

5) Performance based pricing > nothing based pricing

If you’re selling results and you fail to get those results, you should lose too. Have some skin in the game, show them you believe in yourself, keep the KPI’s reasonable and be good enough not to fail.

6) Executive chefs > too many cooks

We have a team with no layers. Each person has at least one discipline that they do themselves. And each is the best at what they do. Agencies have an absurd amount of people. It’s how they make money. And since we all have egos and need to feel valuable, ideas get mindfucked beyond recognition. There’s a reason why the most award winning films have writer/directors with a singular vision and final say.

7) Intuition > Overthinking

When you have a bunch of people on every project and an overabundance of time you overthink everything. That’s bad. People say trust your gut for good reason. When it comes to creativity, your intuition is usually right. That first idea that feels great, is great. There’s a reason you feel that way. It should be pursued.

8) Fail Fast > Perfection

You can brainfuck things forever, but you’ll never know what works until you put it out there. So why insist on perfection when it’s impossible? Why not test it out with a small audience, make tweaks, and continue to improve.

9) Culturally Relevant > Culturally late to the party

In my experience, I’ve never seen an agency complete something, anything, in less than 4 months. That could be a print ad, or a digital banner – the most basic stuff. Since we are able to produce content fast, we can react to what is happening in culture immediately.

10) Focused > General

When you try to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one. Through testing and optimization you can narrow your audience and creative approach.

11) Provocative > Safe

It’s our job to get clients to trust us. If we don’t, it can result in safe, unremarkable work. You have to be willing to stir the pot and piss a few people off, to strike a strong emotional connection.

12) Skin in the game > Lame in the game

Ad agencies make their money no matter what. We make our money based on how things perform. Basically we succeed when you do.

13) Research first > Content first

For PR campaigns, if we are to create content, it’s rarely based on what’s being reported on now. Rather than make something and then try and get people to write about it, we look at what people are writing about and then make something they’re interested in covering.

14) Press for you > Press for them

Agencies celebrate free press that has nothing to do with you. Adweek and adage are ego-stroking outlets for people in the industry. It’s press for them. We get press for you.

15) Optimized > Not optimized

Most agencies don’t have people involved on every project who are analytics ninjas. Digital platforms continue to get more advanced in their analytics and optimization capabilities. Running an ad without testing and tweaking is an awful missed opportunity.

16) Cheap > Expensive

On the internet, cheaper is better. So why is everyone spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to make some super polished thing that’s clearly an ad. Make things that fit the platform you’re advertising on.

17) Fast > Slow

If you can make something affordably, you can make it quickly. Where agencies take 9 months to a year to come out with something, we can do it in just days, reacting to what’s happening in culture right now.

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