March 12, 2009
Thomas L. Friedman is a NY Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winning author of Lexus and the Olive Tree and From Beirut to Jerusalem.
Mr Friedman wrote a column in the New York Times on March 11, 2009 titled "This Is Not A Test. This Is Not A Test."
The column so eloquently states in exactly 860 words how badly up shits creek we all are.
His exact words are "Economically, this is the big one. This is August 1914. This is the morning after Pearl Harbor. This is 9/12."
Hows that for not beating around the bush?
On the same day I read Mr. Friedman's words pertaining to the economy as a whole I also read a statement made by the Omnicom Group saying that they are issuing a very stringent sequential liability clause in vendor contracts.
The clause is that vendors will not be paid anything until the agency gets paid by its client. Additionally the Omnicom agencies will not assume liability for a project if the client doesn't pay.
If your part of a production shop or a digital vendor I will give you a second to say "WTF!!!?"
:one second pause:
We all work in an industry where we are obligated to our clients to sell more of whatever it is they are offering.
As ad industry professionals we are supposed to find innovative ways to come up with creative campaigns that will somehow be impervious to the economic crisis we face in this country and to find ways to get our audiences to buy stuff regardless of the fact that they have no money to spend.
The very fact is that no matter what, the public all needs things. Basic items, luxury items, services and everything in between, we are a country built on consumption and no economic downturn is going to change that.
Smaller production shops are the lifelines of these massive agencies. We are the blood, sweat and tears that go into every project.
We are the craftsmen and women who have honed our skills to perfection in the various fields of film, editing, digital, technology and beyond.
We are the assassins who come in on a project by project basis and give everything we got to make sure, in many cases the turd of an idea we are handed is polished and sparkles like a diamond.
We provide the small details, the documentation, the specifics and the education. We set up the infrastructure and handle the executions. We offer up solutions that sometimes don't even exist before we create it on the fly.
How many times has the experience of a production shop given an agency the core idea for a brand because the agency had no clue what kind of technology was needed to execute whatever it is that they are trying to communicate?
This is a collective slap in the face to all of the folks who work hard day in and day out to get these projects done. The producers, the directors, the flash programmers and video editors, the after effects wizards and the 3D modelers, the gaffers, the grips, the designers and the programmers.
This is the first step towards what I predict is going to be a major impasse in the advertising industry. Productions shops will not accept these suicide contracts and eventually will go directly to the brands themselves to provide the services that these brands all need to communicate to their consumers.
Where does that leave the agencies?
Granted this is just Omnicoms policy and I am sure other agencies outside of Omnicom's group will not adopt this policy. However this is not good for the industry to take a stance against those folks who break their necks day in and day out to get projects out the door.
As holding companies agencies need to be the financial brokers between us smaller vendors and the massive client. Agencies get to call the shots because they were the ones holding the cash, but now what?
Brands would benefit more from working directly with the vendors in executing the ideas that the agencies come up with. The transparency would produce some shocking results.
Brands communicating with vendors directly will result in campaigns being richer and better communicated, the lines of communication would open up and the barriers would get torn down so that the soul of the idea doesn't get diluted by all of the needless layers.
Oh! And budgets would be utilized towards the core idea and not for roles that are simply not needed within the project.
In doing this we would usher in a new golden age of advertising that would welcome and utilize all the advances and experiences of the various vendors. The stories that we tell would be more compelling and the creative will explode into the hearts and minds of the public.
Clients should know exactly how and where their money is being spent and they should have realistic expectations for what is going on with their campaigns during a project life cycle. Vendors have always been hidden away and the agencies have tended to throttle the flow of information in a way that only benefit themselves.
Its time for CHANGE!