Ben Kay on advertising’s lost priorities

For his latest column on advertising, our correspondent Ben Kay examines the tendency for everyone to pull in different directions when it comes to creating work, to the detriment of the whole industry

On the face of it the advertising business is a fairly simple one: companies pay other companies to communicate on their behalf, almost always for the purpose of selling something. That process can be direct or indirect, short term or long term, literal or lateral, but it generally leads to the same ultimate purpose of shifting products and services.

If that’s the case, do you ever get the impression we’re pulling in different directions?

Let’s look at the various people in the agency: the account person might be trying to stop the client putting the business up for review. This could make him or her push you a little harder to accept changes to the endline or edit with the minimum of resistance. They might not want to admit that to you because it makes them look weak, or corrupt, but rest assured, it can often be the spectre at the feast of your reviews.

As far as planners go, I recall working with one regional head of strategy who was taking weeks to fine tune a deck. I was itching to brief the teams and couldn’t understand why we were losing days to pointless tweaking when the media deadline was approaching fast. It turned out she needed to impress her own boss with a brief that would look good to another planner. Her priority had nothing to do with ours and the work suffered accordingly.

But is the creative department innocent of such crimes? Of course not.