Why Net Shops & Ad
Agencies Should Never Marry
One of the biggest issue being discussed
these days -- at least in the online marketing and advertising bars --
is the shocking, right-out-in-the-open topic of intermarriage of ad agencies
and internet shops. No other issue gives me the creeps as much as this
The very idea of traditional ad agencies
coupling up and, ugh, integrating with internet shops is downright disgusting.
It's like dogs living with cats. It's immoral. Unnatural.
More importantly, it doesn't work. And
When you try to breed two species, the
result is often ugly; usually blasphemous. Imagine cross-breeding a pig
with, um....Michelle Pfeiffer! Sure, you could end up with a beautiful
strip of bacon, but you have a better than even shot and ending up with
a snorting actress who likes to roll around in the mud.
Hmmm. That didn't come out exactly as
Anyway, the real reason why today's ad
agencies can't integrate with net shops has very little to do with real
marketing issues or strategic theory. It's really about two completely
different strains of agenda which are totally incompatible:
With internet shops, the agenda is results.
With ad agencies, it's politics. And before anyone from the mucky-muck
agencies starting hacking out hate mail, read on and see if you don't
find yourself secretly nodding in agreement to the similarities to your
Now, as I was saying, ad agencies are
politically driven. Net shops are, typically, results driven. Trust me,
I work both sides of the street and for the most part, this is true. Ad
agencies are interested in keeping their jobs, while net shops are interested
in proving the viability of their medium.
If you doubt this, try holding a coherent
conversation with the president of any traditional agency about almost
any marketing topic, let alone the net. You will find that, especially
in the big agencies, the bigwigs rise through attrition. Most of the talented
types either have no patience for the political stuff or have left to
do their own thing.
Next, try talking to any of those agency
guys about the web -- while keeping a straight face. Sure, these people
know that they should be there, but they have no idea why. Or how. And
to admit something like that, in Agency Land, is a cardinal sin. A sign
A CHANCE TO LOSE THE ACCOUNT!!!
Oh, sure, you'll get one or two who know
what they're doing. That's expected when you make as broad a sweeping
generalization as I just did. But for the most part, that's why you see
what you see from the agencies today: lots of "me too" activity.
Action without true motivation.
Ad agencies are never be first to lead,
but almost always the second to follow. Which is interesting, because
web-based shops take pride in being out in front -- the way advertising
agencies used to. It's a generational thing. Sort of like Luke Skywalker
discovering that Darth Vader was actually his Dad.
The fact that agencies need to "be
on the web" is what's driving them. I've been in meetings where they
seriously say to a client, "we oughta have our own home page",
never knowing how dopey it sounds, all the while hoping nobody calls them
That's not to say all net shops are strategically
driven wizards. Lord knows that the lion's share of net shops were founded
by frustrated graphic artists. But their agenda are far more realistic
than the ad agencies', mainly out of necessity. Because while ad agencies
don't have to justify traditional media for their clients, net shops still
have to rationalize the effectiveness of theirs.
So while ad agencies live off the fat
of the land, net shops must either kill or go hungry. By definition, net
guys are more motivated to produce results than agency guys.
For those of you more inclined to sadistic
forms of entertainment, I heartily suggest you get these two in the same
room -- in front of the same client. Sit back and watch the net guys'
results-driven energy do battle with the agency guys' political paranoia.
But if you're a net fan, bring plenty
of hankies, because you're going to watch your team go down in flames
Smart, bright and strategic scares clients
who crave comfort and stability.
Better you should stick with your own
kind. Do what you do for people who appreciate it -- and pay you for it.
Net stuff should stay in net shops --
where it belongs.