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February 4, 2009
The Advertising Industry Stimulus Package
Congress won’t bail out the advertising industry--but we can do it ourselves

The ad industry is going through a rough time—just like other industries. But Congress won’t throw us a bone in a $1 trillion stimulus package. So you’ll be happy to know that I’ve got a stimulus package to present. It’ll help us and it’ll help our clients. Best of all, it only took me a couple of hours and cost only the price of a Venti Latte. But here goes:

Media outlets should start charging advertisers less for more creative ads. It’s been suggested before, but the time has come. People are tuning out TV and radio, and bad commercials aren’t helping. Look at the Snuggie commercial. It’s getting a lot of attention. It’s a weird spot, and weird product. In terms of media planning, the buy is heavy and the ads are ubiqutious. The ad is so bad, it manages to break through the clutter of “real” advertising agency work that gets watered down into mediocrity. Do you want more Snuggie-like commercials? If not, start rewarding the better ones. There’s little agreement on what constitutes “more creative,” but someone oughta try.

Every advertising agency person should work at their client’s office for 2 days. If your agency positions itself as a “valued partner” for your clients, put your ass where your mouth is and try it out. Sit in a cubicle in some random office park or be an apprentice at the factory where they make the widgets. Just two days. You’ll survive. You’ll appreciate your advertising job more, and be thankful you’re not daily exposed to your client’s brain-sucking work environment. And you’ll get a good sense of why they don’t care about award-winning creative as much as you do.

Go to the newsstand and buy 4 magazines you’ve never, ever read before. Support thy print media brethren and learn something new at the same time. Here’s a start: go grab copies of “Woman’s Day,” “Heeb,” “Smart Money,” and “Fine Woodworking.” At the very least, you’ll freak out the cashier with your unusual taste.

Ditch the use of stock photography for a month. Hire a photographer. Take your own pictures. Or use an illustration or just type. It’s getting too easy to do a stock image search. And while some stock images are good, many are just humdrum and they always  get force-fitted into a layout. Make a note to yourself to do it some other way—and persuade your client to try it some other way, too.

Make your next client meeting a session where you say: “You don’t need ads. You need X.” And make that “x” something your agency doesn’t do,  but something that would seriously help your client’s business. What do they need? Cleaner stores? Higher quality products made in America, not China? Better customer service? More attractive packaging? An employee appreciation dinner? If your client is suffering in this economy, ads may not be the answer. And if they’re not happy with what they’re getting from your agency, more ads isn’t the answer, either.

If you’re a client-side marketer, and your account is currently with an agency owned by a holding company, fire the agency and hire a new agency that’s independently-owned. You’ll get more for your money. You may or may not necessarily get better work, but you’ll definitely get more for your money. In other words, just eliminate the middleman and buy factory-direct.

If you’re a small business that relies on a newspaper or magazine staff to design your ads, hire a freelancer. It won’t cost you a lot, and the result will likely be much, much prettier. You might even get some new ideas for your business.

Spend one day roaming a large state university campus and another day in the clubhouse of a large Florida retirement community. Just get the hell out of your usual routine. Remind yourself that most folks—consumers, that is—don’t think like wanna-be hipster advertising people. But you still have to communicate with them.

Remember, this is a stimulus package, not a cash bailout. It might stimulate your mind, your creativity, and your co-workers, if not your wallet.

Oh, you want a bailout? Well, as screwed up as the advertising industry is, the amazing part is: we haven't screwed up nearly enough to get one.


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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. 

Visit his copywriting websitesee his LinkedIn profile or follow him on Twitter.

And please, buy his book for 99 cents.


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