‘I know that half of my advertising money is wasted … I just don’t know which half’

Just been reading about measuring effectiveness online, which led me to this guys blog post

His opening line pretty much sums up his argument: “This is the idea that if agencies could agree on a single way of measuring “effectivness”, irrespective of whether the ad is online or offline, the industry would get back to normal.”

He goes on to say how online advertising is measurable and advertisers are beginning to favour this accountability over the more volatile nature of offline. I do agree, to an extent…but online advertising isn’t as easy to measure as one would like to think.

This article basically makes the same point, other than it focuses exclusively on online – only when a single currency is developed intra-disciplinarily can a cross-discipline or “standard set of methods” be developed.

And furthermore, is this even desirable? To the client, yes, but to creativity…I’m not so sure. When Paul talks about the industry ‘returning to normal’ as a result of standardized effectiveness measurement, what is this norm? Back in the ‘good old days’ of creativity in ad agencies (an idealized view I’m sure, and perhaps not desirable today – but still, something he seems to allude to), there was a very different call for accountability.

The key for me is in balancing measurement, stats, quants and standardization with a creative, engaging and dynamic context for brands to ‘live’ in a cross-platform space: online, offline, virally and out of the box…

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How can you define the space, when the space keeps moving?

We live in exponential times…

Further themes…more on this later…

– ‘Chinese Whispers’ – Exploring the symbolic and tacit devices drawn upon by people in advertising agencies to communicate creativity both internally (eg cross-functionally, between different social/cultural worlds within the agency) and externally (eg to the client, to other agencies)

Internal and external representation of creativity: communicating an understanding of ‘what is actually going on here’, unpacking the creative ‘black box’ and delivering more tangible representations of process, strategy etc from diverse creative roles. Issues of cultural capital eg the creative individual acts / dresses / talks in a certain way, and this is expected but also necessary to represent in a certain way, eg Impression Management, Individuals, office location, physical environment as Cultural Assets…Idea of protecting cultural capital eg the creative process should be kept sort of mysterious and whatever else in order to preserve its cultural capital’s credibility?…How people act as buffers eg Account Managers buffering between creatives/clients…

– ‘Bringing Digital Agencies to the table’: Arguments for vertical [and horizontal] integration of strategy, planning, and creative conceptualization in a cross-platform space

Basically the idea that digital agencies are pushing [and slowly achieving] greater strategic involvement at a cross-platform level, so rather than being handed down a brief and adpating [shoehorning, retrofitting] to pre-/otherwise-determined creative, media space etc (eg by the client independent of the digital agency, between the client and the media agency (unconsulted media planning); between the client and the ATL agency (creative concept passed on and not organic), they develop from an original brief and co-create strategy, planning and concept that complements but is not restricted by ATL creative or other agencies…

My Key Themes: Bounded Creativity?

Note: This really is first draft stuff. It’s just a bunch of notes.

So, the title of the thesis as it stands now is something like “Exploring Creative Processes in the [Digital?] Advertising Agency – Client Relationship: Insights from an Ethnographic Perspective”, but this changes most days, normally several times before breakfast (Or as Tony Jordan was saying the other day on Screenwipe (S4 E3), as a writer he tries to have a regular 9-5 day: you wake up, have 14 cups of tea, play solitaire, have another cup of tea, bit more solitaire, then its 1 o’clock and you break for lunch, then you play a bit more solitaire, another cup of tea, maybe a game of hearts…another cup of tea, and then it’s 4 o’clock and you think fuck I better get some work done….etc etc etc)….

And anyway, the main themes within it at the moment are:

Something to do with creative boundaries, and Margaret Boden’s idea of bounded creativity


New [and old] creative boundaries in the dACR (Digital Agency-Client Relationship) eg the role of technology in bounding creativity; Facilitative and Restrictive creative boundaries; Multi-constructed layers and processes in the ACR as multi-constructed boundaries.

The general idea that creative processes (from a sociological perspective) are bounded in various ways. These boundaries can be considered as both facilitative and restrictive, in different circumstances.

The creative process in advertising is bounded initially in the sense that it is commercially oriented and inherently designed to fulfill a specific purpose eg to increase sales of x, to drive traffic to website x, to encourage browsers of a website to order a brochure; rather than being purely artistic. This initial bounding sets the scope of the creative process to take place – as opposed to unbounded ‘blank canvas’ creativity – which is however in some way still bounded eg in fine art by culture, history etc – usually in the form of budgets, deadlines, and the client requirements (eg client brief, matching ATL creative).

Thus the context for the relationship, and the work to be completed, is defined, at least loosely (‘Define the Space’).

So a creative boundary might be Time (Rapid turnaround in digital?), Technology (Is it possible? Or eg A Minimum File Size?), Client (Closeness, honesty, interpersonal chemistry), Budget (Does a smaller budget constrain or encourage creative thinking?), Resource (Projectization, Recruitment), Concurrent/prospective projects, Knowledge, Network (eg client, media agency, partners?), understanding (mutuality of experience, sympathy?)…

…And then the idea of Exploring ideas of boundary ‘objects’ as mediators between bounded contexts (eg in developing mutual understanding) – may be gatekeepers, documents eg creative brief bridging planning/concepting/strategy and design….as well as linking in deliverables…

The General Idea

OK, so just to give you the general idea: My name is Joe, and I’m currently in the 2nd year of my PhD at Lancaster University, UK, studying creative processes and how they are managed in the advertising agency – client relationship (eg A B2B context). Whether its design, strategy, an idea, a communication I try to look at how these creative processes actually take place, using an ethnographic methodology (eg participant-observation in ad agencies, clients etc). My recent focus has been on digital ad agencies (eg digital creative agencies – think agency.com, glue, AKQA etc).

The general idea for this wordpress is going to be for me to start getting my thoughts and ideas for my thesis write up etc written down somewhere they can live and breathe and perhaps receive some feedback, or something, hopefully.

This is also my first blog, I’ve started bout 9 previously under various guises but never really knew what to talk about other than the normal general tat that seems to litter the web in a <a href=”http://scampblog.blogspot.com/2008/10/digital-ghost-towns.html”ghost town of dead blogs, microsites etc…

So, yes. If my thesis or anything I write is of interest or anything to you, please get in touch or leave a comment (I guess you can do that?)