Mark Wnek on advertising

Only the envious say there are too many advertising agencies

My top three current pet hates are 1) people with tattoos who are not a) in the armed forces, b) actors, singers or musicians, c) criminals, convicted or otherwise, d) wearing a bikini; 2) "the postmodern toupee", hairstyle of balding men achieved by shaving off all their remaining hair in the lame attempt to mask nature's joke; 3) truisms.

My top three current pet hates are 1) people with tattoos who are not a) in the armed forces, b) actors, singers or musicians, c) criminals, convicted or otherwise, d) wearing a bikini; 2) "the postmodern toupee", hairstyle of balding men achieved by shaving off all their remaining hair in the lame attempt to mask nature's joke; 3) truisms.

Truisms are nasty, reactionary little barbed-wire fences designed to stop people thinking and challenging. Truisms are created by your elders to stop you from becoming their betters.

The top truism of the moment is that the advertising market is "massively oversupplied" by ad agencies. It's a phrase trotted out chiefly by the proprietors of less successful agencies and regurgitated by some of the more impressionable trade journos. Like many truisms, its flimsiness reveals itself under the slightest scrutiny.

Markets deal with oversupply quite violently, but I don't see any of the agency chiefs in question withering and dying as they lay siege to The Ivy's wine cellar. Yet you'd have thought that these underachieving duffers' companies would be the first to go to the wall.

No, the fact is that advertising folk make extremely good money compared to the average person. Okay, "massively oversupplied" may not be as powerful a criticism as it used to be - and about time too. But there's something deeply cringe-making about those within the industry moaning that there are too many agencies. Not least because the subtext is that the whinger's own company is not guilty.

Complaining that the ad agency market is oversupplied is like complaining that Glastonbury is too noisy and crowded: it's nature's way of telling you you're better off at home, tuning your radio to the Light Programme and tamping down your pipe rather than even thinking of pogoing up the front with Johnny Hornby.

Actually, the advertising market is, as ever, massively undersupplied ... by good agencies. Case in point: the recent IPA (Institute for Practitioners of Advertising) Effectiveness Awards where the Grand Prix was won by the agency Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest (VCCP) for its outstanding O2 campaign. VCCP is a new agency, started up by, among others, Charlie Vallance, the former managing director of WCRS and Rooney Carruthers, former creative director of the same agency and the visual genius behind the gone but not forgotten "The future's bright, the future's Orange" campaign.

As you may recall, O2 used to be BT Cellnet, a weak brand taking a kicking from Vodafone and Orange. Today it's a thriving business and a powerful brand thanks in great part to a visually arresting and single-minded branding campaign.

The IPA Effectiveness judges wrote: "O2's marketing investment has paid for itself 60 times over, generating an incremental margin of at least £4,799,000,000."

Luckily for all concerned, VCCP has no truck with truisms. Its success proves that there is always room for brilliant operators. Looking at the rest of the IPA awards, only the unignorable 118 118 campaign and the Department of Health's anti-smoking campaign really stand out. Last week I mentioned the recent Campaign Poster Awards in which only one poster and one campaign would, in my opinion, be noticed in the real world from a car at 30mph. The above are four or five examples from among thousands of communications.

Surely there must be dozens of brilliant writers, art directors, planners and suits working for The Man with the belief that they could set up their own ad agency based on passion instead of profit and kick some ass. A walk down any high street looking at inscrutable posters or a flip through TV channels tells any would-be ad agency entrepreneur that the ad agency world is not oversupplied; it is your oyster.

Did I mention that I hated truisms?

Witness the birth of a new satirical genius

One of my favourite advertising stories/myths is the reaction of the late great Jay Chiat, founder of LA-based ad agency Chiat Day, to an unwelcome letter from Donald Trump.

Chiat's response to Trump is alleged to have opened with the immortal words, "Dear Donald, I feel I have to warn you that some asshole has got hold of your headed notepaper..."

The spooky thing is that the Phantom Asshole seems to have made his or her way across the Atlantic and looted the stationery cupboards of several senior managers in the UK ad and media industries. Next, he or she has penned a whole series of letters under the managers' various names and sent them to the industry's trade mag, Campaign. Each letter praises Campaign's recent redesign in such spectacularly oleaginous terms that they can only be the work of a major new satirical genius.

"The new-look Campaign is achingly modern and yet timelessly traditional", "It is aesthetically addictive", "It feels like a modern sleek cross between the excitement of Campaign and the authority of Ad Age", and my personal favourite, "It feels as if the voice of the industry is perfectly lip-synching with the advertising business of today".

This is brilliantly funny stuff. Phantom Asshole, you are a major talent and you should be making a fortune from sitcoms, not skulking about the world in a pretend beard.

News
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
peopleBurt Reynolds, once among the most bankable actors in Hollywood, is set to auction his memorabilia
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Sales Manager

£60k - 80k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Full Stack Software Developer

£35k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

Opilio Recruitment: Senior Digital Designer

£50k - 55k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An exciting opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game