In the recent special double issue of Newsweek magazine (3/26/12 and 4/2/12) celebrating Mad Men and the 1960s golden age of advertising, Nick Summers analyzes the tremendous changes in advertising due to social media (“Click This Ad Already!” pp. 58–64).  In that same article, Summers articulates the age-old central struggle of the advertising business, especially when it comes to breakthrough advertising:

Creating breakthrough advertising is long, discouraging, bleary, quarrelsome work, until it is joyously complete.  And then, often, the client says, “No, too strange, too risky.”  This conflict between the brilliant creative director and the stodgy business folks is as old as the industry; it’s a repeated plotline on “Mad Men” and happens every day in the real world. (p. 64).

The supposed value of the advertising agency is its expertise in the discipline.  But if the client becomes spooked by the agency’s proposal, then it is a lose-lose situation.  Both the agency and the client cannot move forward.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Hello?  Didn’t the client engage the agency precisely because of its expertise?

Part of the intrinsic value of an outside consultative entity is the outsider’s objective qualified perspective.  The agency will often see things the client cannot see or refuses to see.  If the agency can win the client’s confidence and trust, then the agency has a splendid opportunity to make things better for the client.  Simultaneously, the client possesses an inbred passion to protect its legacy.  Departures from traditional approaches to advertising and marketing can represent a threat.

Ultimately, it comes down to the agency’s ability to build relationship and thereby persuade the client of the proposal’s merit.  The more effectively the agency can do this, the greater the opportunity for the win-win outcome.  The agency must be persuasive enough to sell the proposal’s value.  Simultaneously, the client must be brave enough for a breakthrough.

And as we all know, some client’s will be brave enough to enjoy the breakthrough.  Tragically, other client’s will not find the bravery, and thus forfeit the breakthrough.

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About James Meadows

Currently I serve as a training team manager for Johnson Controls at a customer-care center in Kansas City. Additionally, I am a business consultant, a freelance corporate writer, an Assembly of God ordained minister, a Civil Air Patrol chaplain, and a blogger. I believe we are living in the most fascinating times of human history. To maximize the opportunities these times present, I have a passionate interest in leadership development and organizational success, both of which I view as inextricably linked.

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