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Intelligence Briefs

Short-termism is a choice: agencies and marketers are accountable

Industry Contributor

Carl Ratcliff, Chief Strategy Officer

4 November 2019 2min read

The ever smart and passionate Martin Weigel from W+K Amsterdam has questioned if advertising has lost its long-term bite because of a weakening creative muscle or whether it's always been a vapid load of tosh. Are we just kidding ourselves about the efficacious, erstwhile glories of advertising?


Key points:

  • Agencies risk being in the business not of value creation but value destruction
  • Client businesses are demanding flatter advertising solutions in the quest to win very quickly
  • Critically, short-termism is a choice – an ideology – not a legal obligation
  • Creativity shouldn’t be seen as some kind of distraction tactic, bait, or bribe. It offers a far richer output and outcome
  • If creativity is to succeed, we must rebuild a model that delivers short- and long-term ideas

My Takeout

‘The brand line always gets cut first,’ a client once said to me. It’s a statement that many of us know to be true and one that forms the centre of Martin Weigel’s piece.

His argument adds critical, ideological fuel to a debate that we in Australia are losing. The last Effies saw only two submissions awarded for long-term brand building success.

The fact that Weigel frames short-termism as a choice, not a legal or necessary obligation, is crucial. We – in the agency world – risk being seen as hand wringing over the death of our model and/or the long-form advertising format. But the greater risk is that we don’t defend the commercial truth of how we approach healthy brand building. Closer to home, Mark Ritson has screamed the virtuous cycle that emerges when you avoid the tyranny of ‘or’.

And that’s the pain of all this.

The corporation will indeed feed more richly if it pursues both strategies. But often is unable to see beyond the glare of short-term success.

A dual approach requires patience and time, true. While not imperative, a brand will likely deploy up to several communication platforms to make work. Considering how they flow and work together is time that needs to be afforded. It is the very definition of time well spent.

Post-Cannes, clickbait headlines declared the death of creativity because long-term effectiveness was apparently in decline.

I’d argue that the case for creativity has never been stronger. Instead it’s a prevailing commercial culture that is killing its paradoxical gift. A gift we can reprise if we dare to push back. And revert to the core agency skill of – as Bill Bernbach called it – ‘properly practiced creativity’. A business practice that results in greater sales more economically achieved. Properly practiced creativity can lift your claims out of the swamp of sameness and make them accepted, believed, persuasive, urgent.

Priming. And reminding. 

The long. And the short. 

As Martin concludes, so shall I, ‘Disproportionate and sustained advantage awaits.’

Let’s go. What do you think?

Industry Contributor

Carl Ratcliff, Chief Strategy Officer

Carl Ratcliff has more than 20 years’ experience in the world of marketing and building brands. He has a strategic background, having worked as an account planner on both the agency and client side at the likes of TBWA/London and Channel 4, respectively. In addition, he led brand strategy, marketing and creative direction while at Channel 5 in the UK. After relocating to Australia, Ratcliff ran creative agencies in both Melbourne and Sydney. Most recently he led the award-winning team at One Green Bean in Sydney before reverting back to the world of strategy as chief strategy officer at DDB Sydney. He takes pride in his ability to make teams feel safe - a security that elicits an excellent outcome. For clients and agency alike.
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