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Agency Review

Five agencies are pitching your business. Or maybe it's down to two. And their presentations are equally brilliant. Of course they are; agencies do their best selling in the conference room. But beyond those pyrotechnics, do the actual strategic and creative concepts bear up under scrutiny? Where are the holes in the thinking, the communications disconnects, the lurking hazards? Or the opposite. For instance, 20-some years ago, when the Corona campaign was unveiled, AdReview issued four stars and predicted the campaign would sell beer for decades. There aren't many big ideas out there; don't pass on one.


For 25 years I have analyzed advertising strategy and execution, and for 25 years I have witnessed the same costly mistakes, again and again, worldwide. There are two reasons: 1) a structural conflicts of interest and culture between agencies and their clients, 2) the inattention, from the bunker of the creative process, to the real world on the ground above.

It is no surprise that agencies sniff their own fumes, but for marketers to be victimized by groupthink is unnecessary. I am perhaps the world's foremost identifier of problems in the making. Sometimes my warnings are heeded (Coca-Cola once killed a worldwide slogan change the morning my skeptical column appeared) and sometimes the soon-to-be-victims stubbornly, catastrophically press on. You could ask the folks at Just for Feet, who ignored my advice not to run their Super Bowl commercial about white mercenaries in a Humvee tracking and tranquilizing a Kenyan long-distance runner. Alas, amid public outrage and litigation, the company dissolved.

I've retired AdReview to introduce AdPreview. Avert incalculable damage to your brand. Let me monitor and vet your agencies' ongoing output.

Truth Serum (one dose)

Change is all around us. So are the impediments to change, among them inertia, performance-based bonuses, Wall Street, non-zero-based budgeting, the sheer magnificence of the old mass-media/mass-advertising symbiosis and the sheer difficulty of using digital tools to replace what is slipping away. All of which lead to the most formidable impediment: denial.

That little quirk of human psychology is (temporarily) preserving your near-term cash-flow and destroying your future. Let me sit with your top managers, in the entire C-suite and their direct reports. I will talk to them. I will listen to them. We'll discuss the stakes, the obstacles, the challenges, the opportunities of doing business in a post-advertising age. I will evangelize about the possibilities for your business — possibilities that go far beyond advertising to market research, sales, R&D, CRM and so on. I will level with them about how hard and even tedious the Brave New World will be. I will offer some solutions. And I will impress upon them, once and for all, that there is no choice.

This is a one-morning exercise.

The Relationship Era

We are living now and forever more in a post-advertising environment, in which corporate messages are increasingly drowned out by human word-of-mouth, supercharged by social media. Brands and businesses have been therefore thrust into a world of transparency, and are being held accountable – or credited and admired – for all they do.

In a connected world, every action (or inaction) is advertising. Coming to grips with this new reality requires a vast change in culture and mentality, but offers still a more vast opportunity. That opportunity hinges on forging and cultivating relationships, which is also now possible on a scale unimaginable a few years ago. Those who embrace The Relationship Era will discover that "goodwill" – already a balance-sheet asset – is priceless. And immensely expandable. I can help you understand the new reality and help you navigate from the old ways to the new.

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