Saturday, April 14, 2012

Specialist or generalist?

         The new Advertising Age Profiles of Marketers makes it clear that the day of "one ad agency" is over. Most large marketers employed several agencies, and Chevrolet added a whole new twist.

         Today marketers seem to want specialists, one agency for the national advertising, one for the retail, another for media buying and another for promotions. Companies that have multiple brands often have multiple groups like these, one for each brand. I suppose marketers feel they get a range of thinking that way, along with specialized counsel.

        Perhaps they'd be better off with some deeper thinking, and the advice of generalists who are not beholden to one particular type of solution to problems. These trends run hot and cold. For a while agencies wanted to be psychologists, and probe the unconscious of consumers. Not too long ago agencies believed in the integration of advertising and public relations, and bought every p.r. firm within their grasp.

        Last month, Chevrolet went a step beyond. They got two agencies to get together to start a new agency in Detroit owned by both of them to serve Chevy around the world. It's called Commonwealth, named after the coffee shop in a Detroit suburb where the deal was put together.

        Everyone in advertising presumably knows how to make ads, just as everyone in a direct response agency knows how to do a mailer or send a price-off email. That's not where ad agencies can do their clients the most good.

        The real help agencies can give is deeper insights into the market --- a more empathic understanding of what people really want and can use. And then translate those insights into fresh ways of presenting them to the customer. Really knowing how to break through the clutter and sell things.

         That's why I believe marketers can use the help of more generalists. Professionals who can see the bigger picture and deal with it all, building the brand with ideas that matter.

          I hope you'll be a generalist.  There are only a few of us left.


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