Q&A: Brendon on the future

Of all the transformations that have occurred over the years, which is the most surprising?

Of all the transformations that have occurred over the years, which is the most surprising?

I cast my mind back to the relationship I had [as president of Benton & Bowles Canada] with [former P&G president] Roy Kendall and [former divisional manager] Larry Dare. In those days the relationship between client and agency was much more collaborative and [they trusted] the agency with every piece of information. So they actually helped the client build his brand and the business.

Now I think procurement has got involved to the point of ‘how little can we pay these people this year?’ If you’re focusing on how little you can pay for a creative resource, then what will they do? They have to [satisfy] shareholders, so they’ll start to cut their resources and then it spirals downwards with the client saying: ‘You know I didn’t get as much value as last year, so I’m going to cut it some more.’ And then where will we all end up?

What’s the solution?

At the ICA we try to educate clients on the value the agency provides, and the agencies to a certain extent need to be educated on how to sell. They’re not in the business of selling time, they’re in the business of selling solutions that build brand and business. There’s a lot of talk about licensing intellectual property, and nobody quite knows how to do it, but in any other creative business, the more exposure it gets, the more the originator gets paid. The difficulty with advertising is sometimes you give it away for free to entice a client in. Or he pays for it once, and he can use it around the world.

What other issues concern you?

Measurement and accountability is the key issue, because so many financial people at the client end don’t really understand marketing or client communications.

What opportunities do you see for Canada globally?

We have wonderful niche expertise, such as DDB Anderson, which does a high percentage of its business in the U.S., because health care advertising seems to be something that we do very well. When you look at the production side, you’ll find that there’s a lot of expertise in animation.

Specialization is the way forward. Agencies all say the same thing: ‘we’re an integrated organization that provides solutions around a wide range of businesses.’ How are you supposed to differentiate? Clients today are also looking for best in class, and that doesn’t mean one mega-agency. I advise members – if you can think of six other agencies that can do this better than you can, don’t waste your efforts. Find the one that you are absolutely right for. Put your efforts into that.