Watch-out the We are not an Ad Agency

Watch-out the “We are not an Ad Agency”. They claim all for paid revenue. The “Death of Advertising” that Seth Godin introduced in 2008 isn’t true at all! In 1970 a consumer was receiving 700 ad messages/day and today, the amount has risen to 5.000 messages/day.

Watch-out the “We are not an Ad Agency”

In the Marketing Communications industry globally there is an on-going dialogue of what is new, how much digital we are becoming, what kind of new tools to use …and that the word “Advertising” is a curse to bear! How come the wider industry people watch the “Mad Men”, but they treat Advertising as a “dirty” word? Perception, of course.

Let’s stop calling ourselves ad agencies because advertising is such a small part of what we do,” said Deutsch North American chief digital officer Winston Binch, who argued that a broader, more generic term would be more accurate. Is he right, or he is a victim of the hype around digital?

This is an alarming sentiment, but it echoes simple -but yet sometimes deceptive- questions: a) what is advertising nowadays (how has it evolve?), and b) how do we define the agencies that produce it?

Should a Client ‘buy’ this?

Is it true? If an agency claims that they are not an Ad Agency, to signify their (own-claimed) disruptive services (if any!), or to distinguish themselves from the “old world” of Marketing, should a Client believe it?

The “Death of Advertising” that Seth Godin introduced in 2008 has become a (not-actually proven) hype. Not true at all! In 1970, globally, a consumer was receiving 700 advertising messages per day in all marketing channels (TV, Outdoor, Print, Radio). Today, the amount has risen to 5.000 messages/day (in all touchpoints…native, apps, Viber, YouTube, radio …you name it!)

Point-1: There’s no clear line, but all …advertise!

Currently ad agencies, to preserve their revenue, they offer all sorts of services: planning, concept and creative, film-making, events, direct ads, online, offline, below the line …but hey, wait, there’s no line anymore!

Is there a line between digital activations, PR strategies and “classic” ad agency’s role? Typically yes, but in real life, all touchpoints, marketing professions’ specializations and competencies merge.

I know that advertising has changed formats, ways, and planning routine, but I can’t imagine an agency avoiding the paid media. Isn’t after all, what all of the agencies are after? Paid channels & their commission/revenue? Paid search, paid social, paid native, paid sponsorships, paid influencers.

Point-2: The agency of revenue isn’t an agency of Value

An (even digital-competent) ad agency that’s (says it’s) not an advertising agency, should be renegades of value-add. Strategic. Consultative. Charging only on outcomes or on pure hourly cost.

It should be innovators. In views. In strategic path planning. Before execution and charging % costly commissions. Their brand and strategic work should be impossible to copy.

I’ve been there. 17 consecutive years. Managing €60 million per year. Imagine that I was in a small group.  But we were ‘servants’ of revenue. And its increases, organic or given. Doing and pitching for new business 24/7.

Come on! If your agency is “We are not an Ad Agency” then prove it!! Show that you’re committed to customer and brand centricity, with a commitment to accountable business outcomes, through your communication services, from SEO to booking paid media. Build the Brand of your Client and stop claiming BS…

Point-4: The power of Brands’ iconography (advertising) is still here…

See the gallery below and let us know what you think.

“We receive 150 notifications per day and check our phones 221 times per day. We should dream of Creative ideas in a screenless world

Golden Krishna / Senior Experience Designer, Zappos

Point-3: Clients want to be ‘fooled’?

No matter if the Client has in-house teams or agency partners for off-and-online channels, they have the tools, they have the process, right or wrong, and they are driven towards paid models. Let’s look into the real-data – not claims.

Less than two decades after the dot-com bust, Google and Facebook combined command more of the advertising market than all media on the planet. In 10 years, virtually the entire advertising industry has transformed into digitized social media marketing, fueled by open-source e-commerce platforms, mobile devices, and breakthroughs in digital payment infrastructure. According to Statista (2017):

  • Google’s ad campaign revenue totalled over $95 billion in 2017.
  • Facebook’s ad revenue reached over $39 billion over the same period.
  • Google and Facebook together make up roughly 25% of all global advertising expenditure

Point-5: Advertising transforms, but hold your horses

It is highly probable that the future of Ad agencies might not be Advertising at all. OK, clear; and the future Agency model isn’t clear/decided yet as we’ve written before in Borrow My Brain blog.

I see under great suspicion those “We are not an Ad Agency” because they exist and survive (revenue-wise) 100% through paid media and tactics. It’s not bad to admit it. Because my dears if we have had IBM iX, Bullish, Goliath and BBDO innovation in our markets/geographies, then these agencies would have the (proven) right to say “We are not an Ad Agency” anymore.

R/GA chairman and CEO Bob Greenberg has transformed his company (please google their story) —which started in filmmaking— and they are now ahead of the ad industry disruption.

We’re heading towards a future where, regardless of the product or service category or channel or automation, the paradigm shift won’t change the need to communicate. Every intermediary who makes this happen is doing advertising and is being paid for this.


The “We’re not an Ad agency” who’s booking the Instagram sponsored posts of the football superstar Ronaldo is charging 6 figures per each post!!!!! Same practice (influencers) as the celebrities endorsement ads of the ’80s. Only the channel and the cost has changed…

Let’s close this opinion article in a humorous way, so we refrain from calling names all those new-hype-“We’re not an Ad agency” freelancers, agencies, and shops…

Agree? Disagree? Comment and share your view!

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