How are client-side marketers coping with advertising’s revolving door?
Imagine you’re a client-side marketer (or perhaps you are one.) Your entire business is built around one brand, or a few, and you spend every day thinking only of building those brands and reaching your customers.
Would you trust the complete re-branding of your business to a group of people who’ll work on it for a month or two and never touch it again?
Because that’s likely what’s happening. As advertising increasingly becomes a business of transient people and short-term gigs, your brand is being passed around like a beer bong at a fraternity party.
As a creative person, I’ve had plenty of both full-time jobs and freelance gigs. Maybe it’s just me, but the trends today clearly seem to be pointing in the direction of non-full-time work. Projects, short-term assignments, “full-time freelance” work, you name it — ad agencies and marketing firms are looking to keep their staffs lean and hire people full-time only when they have no other option. (But even then, full-time advertising people tend to job-hop frequently.)
And increasingly, other disciplines — media, research, planning, programming, even project and account management — are being handled by temporary or contract employees who aren’t likely to stick around one day longer than they’re needed.
Maybe the transient nature of our business fit us, as it reflects the constant change we’re seeing all around us. Focusing on an immediate need or task might be enough without worrying about future consequences. After all, how dedicated do you have to be to a client’s business? In a world of contract workers, does anyone in advertising truly care about a client’s long-term success?
As for me, I’ve always wanted to know everything I could about the clients I work on: their market position, their competition, their key customers, etc. But when I work on a project basis, or on a quick assignment, very little of that acquired knowledge gets applied. It’s often not asked of me anyway.
I’m somewhat amazed that clients don’t seem to want to meet the people who truly do the work on their business. Maybe I shouldn’t be amazed, because client-side marketers also face much of the same issues — their people are job-hopping, and many of their marketing positions are becoming contract or temporary gigs, too.
But increasingly, campaigns today are complex, multi-layered, and require a deeper understanding of the audience and how to reach them. Yet when the time comes to tackle large amounts of work, freelancers often get the frenzied calls to get it all done.
Every week it seems, we read about new ad agencies or marketing firms trying to become more valuable to marketers. But agencies that commit to innovative ideas, or even inventing apps and products that help clients truly build business, need more than just great thinking. They need to show a deep knowledge of their clients’ business or industry to build credibility and trust. Today’s mercenaries aren't necessarily the best people to do those.
We’re not going to back to an age — if ever there was one — where agencies will hire more full-time workers, who in turn will stay at their jobs longer. And agency-client relationships won’t become longer, just shorter.
Perhaps we may see a small group of agencies that buck the trend. Ones that invest in their people, build a deep knowledge of their clients, and commit to seeing long-term success will win the respect the industry constantly seeks. I’m not so certain we’ll see that.
I think we in the advertising business, along with our clients, just need to get used to chaos, change, and inconsistency as the only parts of marketing that stay permanent.
Since 2002, Dan Goldgeier has been writing the most provocative advertising columns about advertising and marketing -- over 170 of them, covering every related topic you can think of. Now based in Seattle, Dan is a copywriter and ad school graduate who's worked at shops big and small.
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