Firestarters and Grass Cutters

Autumn 2015

Last week I sat alongside the "folla alla moda" and listened in on as @neilperkin @simontsmall @jasonlonsdale @Beautyskew @sudeepgohil discussed the role of the advertising planner at the first Sydney Google #firestarters.

The highlights package consisted of Google is a verb, something of a manifesto for doing, while advertising has evolved into something of an adjective. A descriptive word for "our grass is being cut by McKinsey and the rest of them".

Take a quick look at the growth in management consulting revenues vs media spending in the US market over the past decade and it is easy to see why advertising has a problem.

But is the collective wisdom of the profession capable of finding a solution? A veritable quick fix? The answer is probably not. Hereís why

Identifying the problem is easy

Advertising is in the business of changing patterns of behaviour. Its practitioners use words and pictures, music and movement to manufacture a call to action.

Change the story. Change the world. Or, at very least, change the rules and motivations for playing the game.

The challenge is to identify the behavioural outcome your client is seeking and then invite the creative team to manufacture an award winning message that will deliver the desired conditioned response.

Management consulting is in the same business. As is Google, but that is another story.

The key difference between advertising and management consulting is this. With advertising the solution to every problem is telling a story (i.e. making an advertisement).

Meanwhile the management consultant can call upon a variety of solutions to change patterns of behaviour inside and outside the organisation (e.g. Changing Metrics, Processes, Technology, People etc). The management consultantís plan of attack is not limited by just having to tell a story.

When it comes to manufacturing the social proof, advertising may have the best product, but management consultants benefit from a deeper, more intimate relationship with the client.

Their market discipline is Customer Intimacy. Meanwhile advertising continues to focus and compete on Product Leadership.

For advertising to compete with management consultants they must change their way of doing business. They must evolve beyond simply thinking storytelling is the answer to every client problem and widen their product offering to embrace new forms of social engineering.

Particularly now that the most creative act in advertising is manufacturing the audience, not the message.

To borrow a phrase from the lexicon of the management consultant: Advertisingís strength is ultimately its weakness.

Today the industry is in urgent need of a new manifesto for doing. A new call to action. It needs to radically rethink its pre-conditioned response to every client problem. It needs to be open to new ways of solving the client's problem.

And this is why there is no quick fix to the problem. No easy solution. No game changing story to tell the world.

For advertising to compete with all the growing number of real and imagined disruptors operating in their space today, they must evolve from being mere storytellers into the next generation of social behavioural engineers.

Something I suspect the vast majority of industry players didnít signed up for when they made their decision to join the profession.

Put very simply, if advertising is to continue to be a force in the business of changing the game, it must begin by changing its own game.

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