Advertising has become many things, but at its heart and on every level, it’s a people business.
Audiences aren’t collections of behaviors and mindsets that technology has allowed us to gather up and aim our work at. Audiences are people seeking to do things with their most scarce resource – their time. Our #1 goal should be to help them get those things done and our most important investment is in their time – something that will never be a commodity.
Clients aren’t a portfolio of investment opportunities that serve just to provide scale, leverage or clout. Clients are people who want to do what’s right by their various constituents – their customers, their shareholders, their employees – who are all people, too. If we act as partners in achieving our #1 goal, clients are happy people.
Media companies aren’t commodity traders looking to receive the dollars associated with leverage or clout. Media companies are stewards of people’s time. People choose to invest their time with media companies’ products and those choices become opportunities to invest client dollars to help people get things done – whether buying ads, building experiences or having conversations.
And those working in media at agencies – whether they use connections, communications, investment, activation or some other word to describe what they do – aren’t cogs in a machine facilitating leverage or clout via a portfolio of clients. Folks in media at agencies need to be laser-focused on delivering the intersection of what people are trying to do and how their client’s product or service helps those people get things done – whether that’s at scale or not.
Will technology take this industry in amazing new places that make markets operate more efficiently? Of course – I’ve been lucky enough to be close to a number of the people who have developed or are developing many of these tools. Will the need to report to bottom lines continue to increase? No doubt – and I much prefer managing a P&L vs. a budget. Am I excited about and engaged in the possibilities presented by these evolutions? Absolutely.
But of late, I’ve had many conversations with and messages from people who have been in this industry for a good amount of time, from all sides of the table – client, agency, sales – expressing disappointment in what has become of it. To be clear, these aren’t luddites pining for some golden age of three media to plan and buy and three martinis to have at lunch. These are smart people who have driven and thrived in dynamic media marketplaces.
What they want is something all people want. Not to be purveyors, receivers or shepherds of scale, leverage or clout. What they want is something encapsulated nicely by words from one of our founders, Judy Trabulsi, on the wall at the entrance to our media department at GSD&M Idea City:
The Value of Relationships and the Relationship of Values
For an industry in flux, it can be easy to lose sight of what’s important. For the players who put people and relationships first, great work – and even profits – will follow.