Andy Rice believes the media industry is doomed. And he thinks media people have only themselves to blame.
In a presentation at the Applied Media Logic offices recently, Rice told an audience comprising media owners, agency folk and advertising sales reps that their focus on ‘big data’ and measurable, immediate returns has stifled creativity in the industry.
Rice, a respected strategist and brand consultant, kicked off his talk with videos of two British creative campaigns that ultimately rewarded the risks the clients took. Both were creative, award-winning and grew more market share. But the dominating features were that they were both risky and very creative.
If advertising is risk averse, says Rice, it’s the fault of every player on the value chain. “We are not applying creativity and we will pay. I suspect this is an industry-wide issue and I am going to shame everyone.” Rice then went on to “put in the dock all the villains” of the business.
He began his critique with marketing directors and their dictum of “what cannot be measured cannot be managed”. The obsession with measurement is wrong, said Rice; creativity is not an easily measurable outcome.
Next up were procurement people and the performance-based structure at agencies. “Audience ratings and frequency must be delivered,” said Rice.
He then accused agency management of being guilty of hiring personable people who get along with clients and not creative – if sometimes irascible – geniuses.
Rice did not spare digital specialists who, he said, think they are reaching people in new, different ways but are actually doing the same old thing, albeit on another platform. “They seem to think digital consumers are different,” he said. “Actually all they are doing is responding to stimuli in a different medium. None of these people will be around in
Planners and buyers came in for some heat for their emphasis on measurable data, and media owners for publishing bad ads. A station like Talk Radio 702, said Rice, puts a huge investment into quality programming, “but ignores the 10% that’s in the hands of advertisers”. “There are no crap ads in Vanity Fair because they can say, ‘We won’t run that.’ Why do media owners allow their environment to be diluted?” said Rice. Bad radio ads should be priced at a higher premium, because people switch over during them, he quipped.
Strategists were told to realise they are always third best in an agency, usually behind people with immense creativity but who may not have the logical aptitude to make meaning of figures. Their job is instinctive and should be allowed free rein.
The IT folk came under fire because “data makes you come up with rational solutions instead of instinctive, creative solutions. Just because it can be measured doesn’t mean it should be”.
Human resources were also at fault for hiring people based on their experience rather than on their personality. Hiring on quantitative principles causes companies to lose out on talent, said Rice, adding that research shows that academically sound people tended to do less well in advertising.
He said legislators and regulators were at fault for producing “scared, timid marketers”, while he blamed economists for trying too much to quantify everything as a trend.
Market researchers who focus more on quantitative than qualitative data end up adding to the data pile and “are too focused on logic and rational outcomes”.
Rice concluded that the industry is killing itself, but said all that is needed is a little more tolerance for risk. Research shows that campaigns that win awards are also those that are effective.
“Creativity, risk and effectiveness are symbiotic, and the most important of those three is creativity. It is the only sustainable differentiator. Without it, we are just PR analysts and management consultants. And if clients wanted management consultants they would hire McKinsey,” he said.
“We are all complicit in causing our downfall in small ways, but actually in a big way… The biggest risk of all is to eliminate all risk.”
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