Guilty by Association? The Painful Reputation of Advertising Agencies

October 28, 2013 / by Kathryn Redman

apples to oranges resized 600Not infrequently I am reminded of how lawyers must feel. Jokes about their sleazy tactics and money grubbing ways degrade the entire profession. That lawyer who truly cares about his client and what is right and wrong must feel pretty discouraged and alone in the world.

The same is true for those of us in the advertising profession. In an article Seth Godin published recently he was discussing Google’s latest announcements and what he sees as a sign that the search giant has “jumped the shark,” as it makes decisions seemingly under pressure from large advertisers who want their way. People are unhappy about lots of Google’s recent shifts to hide keywords etc. but in an even more recent policy change the search giant announced it will start using the names and photos of people who use Google+ in advertisements. If that freaks you out and you are a Google+ user, just follow the link and our friend  Corey Eridon at HubSpot will show you how to opt out of this, but that wasn’t the part that got me.

The comment that got to me as I read the post was the following from Seth Godin:

“Advertisers often seem to want pitchmen spraying perfume at every person who walks into the store, inserts stuffed into every periodical, pop up ads, complete data on every individual they target and the ability to spam at will. Great media companies fight back on all of these intrusions, because they know that what actually works is genuine connection built around remarkable products and services.”

I have to confess I truly hate being lumped into the role of “advertiser” when I read stuff like this. It's like comparing apples to oranges. Sure, we're both fruit but we each offer very different flavors.

The high pressure hucksters in large ad agencies who push and pressure and remain committed to all forms of outbound marketing, or interruption marketing continue to reinforce the negative view of advertisers as people who don’t give a rip about people, only about selling. Those of us who have always cared about relationships and are excited about creating advertising and marketing that people actually want, truly rebel against being lumped into the advertising agency stereotypes people have.

I’m not naïve enough to think there isn’t a very strong group of advertising agencies who are all about the money and the “whatever it takes” to make a buck, but I hate it.  Dan Lyons over at HubSpot made further painful observations when he referenced Seth Godin’s post and said the following:

“He (Seth) also points out the irony here, which is that advertisers are constantly pushing Google (and Facebook, and all media companies for that matter) to let them splatter ads everywhere, to intrude on people in every possible way, and if people get annoyed, so what? The problem is that advertisers are stupid, and the things they think they want will end up hurting users; and Google; and -- here’s the irony -- even the advertisers themselves.

Don’t tell that to advertisers, however. In my last job, I was editor of a tech media site, and a lot of my job involved dealing with advertisers. There was nothing they wouldn’t ask for. Or demand. Ethics? Forget about it. Smart business decisions? Long-term value? You must be kidding.”

Ouch…ouch….ouch. So maybe I’m just a sappy, small town girl who really believes that caring for our clients, doing good work for them, helping them care for their customers, and increase leads so they can have more customers is the way to do things. I’m not big enough to play in the arenas these folks are playing in, but I do want to say out loud that here at Half a Bubble Out, we really do see the world from a different angle. We don’t “do advertising” the way a lot of other agencies do and we are proud of that. We think our clients ROCK and that they have great products and services. In fact, we won’t work with a company if we don’t believe that because it is really hard to produce good work for a product, service, or company you don’t believe is valuable or helpful to the world!

That’s my rant for the day. Back to your regularly scheduled activities and thanks for reading.


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