This ad just in…

9 Nov

[by Todd] In the haze of the past couple weeks there was an item on Adfreak that sparked my interest, but oddly enough has garnered little reaction elsewhere. It noted a presentation by Chris Wall, co-chief creative officer at Ogilvy touting a new form of agency environment, something he dubbed Ogilvy Transient.

I’ve taken the liberty of removing Adfreak’s editorial comments, but here’s the salient portion:


It’ll be a roaming, experimental agency unit that aims to produce “brand journalism” for clients, with creative types thinking like editors. Ogilvy Transient’s “band of storytellers” will roam the land desperately seeking inspiration and the Big Idea. “We will go where the story is and create on the fly.”

As a former reporter, now ad guy, the idea makes perfect sense to me. It’s not exactly new, Brand Journalism has been gaining traction since McDonald’s championed the idea two years ago. Simply put, rather than telling one story over and over, a brand delivers its message through many different stories, each appropriate for the audience.

I would love to see Ogilvy Transient succeed. I have been a huge advocate of using original content to deliver the message for many of my clients. And that content is best when it comes from consumers, unfiltered, unedited and unenhanced(?). The thought of creatives and account people learning to be more like editors and reports makes perfect sense.

Sadly Transient won’t work. It will flounder despite the best of intentions, because for it to truly take root means ad agencies relinquishing control. Show me a creative team that is willing to merely report exactly what middle-age couple in mid-America had to say about a brand. Show me an account guy that’s willing to accept what real consumers had to say over what his brief advocates. Agencies get paid to put their fingerprints on the message, or at least they have.

Of course it’s never been easier for an agency to carry out brand journalism. Consumers are telling their story with unprecedented ease, thanks to the proliferation of blogs, YouTube, digital cameras and cellphones. God knows that newspaper reporters and editors are feeling the squeeze.

Eventually brand journalism will succeed. Driven by either online experimentation or the emergence of new, young creative talent less wedded to being pop culture directors. The ultimate irony here is that for decades true-journalists worried that their craft would wither under the pressure to make news more and more like an ad.

The reality is that your ads will look more and more like news.