Q’s & cocktails with…

Tim Broadbent, director, BrandCon.

Tim Broadbent, director, BrandCon.

Tim Broadbent is no fan of cookie-cutter commercials. Consumers can smell them a mile away, he says. So why are there so many of them out there? This Brit blames it on the need to justify every penny spent on marketing.

‘Bosses should either get closely involved with communications – or just go away,’ he says.

In a speech at the recent Cassies Awards in Toronto, Broadbent, fresh from a similar gig in Budapest, told Canadian agencies that they must step into the ‘added value’ business or risk extermination.

Judging by the number of listeners who interrupted this interview to thank Broadbent personally, his message made an impact.

Certainly, he has the kind of experience that demands respect. Broadbent started his ad career in 1978 at BMP, the agency that ‘invented planning.’

He is chairman of the IPA Value of Advertising Committee – he’s the only person to win two Grand Prix at the IPA Awards – and now runs his own consultancy called BrandCon in London, U.K.

Strategy caught up with him post awards for a quick word.

You mentioned putting a value on ideas. How does that happen and why is it crucial?

The majority of agency payment is based on time plus. A quite small component is the value of the agency’s output.

I think that has to reverse. The largest proportion of remuneration should reflect the ad’s success in the marketplace. Look at BBH and Lynx [male cologne]. The agency took a nothing brand and made it the most used brand among 15- to 19-year-olds. BBH should have been paid a fortune for that. [Such a payment structure] would create a genuine partnership between the agency and the marketing department – it would make it real.

Any other big changes you foresee?

Planners now see their job as writing the brief. That’s going to become an incidental part of their job. Lots of people can write briefs just as well as planners can, but the rationale for the work after it’s been developed, that will be very important. I also think agencies will continue to go smaller, smarter and nimbler. They’ll come together to do a project and then break up. And the continuity will be the people who measure the success of the project – the planners.

What effect are you seeing with the current trend toward multinational agencies?

The four big multinationals say they make lower margins on advertising than on other forms of communication. Well, that’s not satisfactory. The way to boost the margin on the ad side is to show that it has bigger effects than other communications. In the U.K., a client [recently] said they were going to stop advertising and switch everything to direct mail because they could measure it. Choosing something that has a smaller effect because you can measure it over something that has a bigger effect because you can’t measure it is just intellectually idle.