The challenges facing the Irish Advertising and Marketing industry

Challenges Ahead* We have more tools at our disposal now than ever before to reach, connect and communicate with consumers and the biggest challenge is to ensure that we campaign a single minded idea through all of the channels and devices available.

* The next challenge is that there’s too much time spent focusing on the myriad of technology and distribution channels than on the content we’re waving on behalf of our clients at the consumer. There appears to be a school of thought that how you connect with people is more important than what you say – it’s easy to forget that the message takeout and feel is more important than the distribution vehicle. It’s creativity that differentiates and builds relationships not technology. Marketeers that can harness and straddle that bridge are the ones that will succeed.

* Then there’s Mobile which appears to be the next Holy Grail but what is it: ad optimization, banners, apps, content, txt, social, unsocial, never mind the F word. Yes, people have an unhealthy relationship with their smartphones and tablets but they’re probably grazing on your message rather than dining on it – and it will be all too easy to regard mobile as a novel or shock tactic rather than as part of a long term sustainable brand building campaign.

* So all the talk and time spent on appearing to integrate silos, bunkers, platforms, teams is good but it’s not what our business is about. Creating or generating great ideas to drive a brand or service is. Too many marketeers are afraid of missing out and try too broad a range of things at a surface level rather than create the impact for their CVs by doing one or two things well.

* Data overload. Clients want clear cost effective measurable and accountable routes to their consumers and there is now a surfeit of data that would clog the arteries of any super computer in the Media budget allocation and Creative evaluation process though we look forward to the long awaited holostic Advertising research. Don’t forget that gut feel and instinct on the best channel for an idea can outweigh the rationale of the smartest statistician.

* The economy. There are signs of budgets recovering in Britain and the recent signs of bouyancy, particularly on Outdoor, in this market are encouraging but there will be no swift fix as this austerity ridden economy results in more austerity and retarded recovery. Commercial realities and expectations in terms of quality, production values, delivery, value for money have reduced or increased depending on how your fortunes have been favoured. The economic climate has ‘rationalized’ an entire industry.

* The challenge has been how to survive and prosper.  And it’s understandable, perhaps, that surviving the ‘order of the boot’ – as one customer put it to me when asked about a bland sponsorship sting – is far more important than surviving the debate for a good campaign. A great creative idea can drive sales and generate a sustainable media budget, not the other way round.

* We provide insight and develop relevant strategies and campaigns to motivate your consumer and add value to your brand. That’s our challenge.

* Louis McConkey is Chairman of KDNINE a lean, results oriented, communications agency

* This article was first published in IMJ’s Agency issue August 2013

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The Future of Advertising

Take the current general economic collapse out of the scenario and it is my contention that the advertising industry would still be in crisis. Not just in Ireland but possibly all over the world, The problem with Ireland is that we are leading the decline because of our basket case finances and corrupt political legacy.


To cut to the 400 word chase most creative agencies big and small are struggling to adapt to new media or more importantly to see a future where there is enough money to be made from servicing its incessant demand for content and expensive employees.


The media buying business probably still 80% of all advertising spend is now one where all major advertising accounts move between 4 or 5 giant agency groups. They make their money from handing money and back end deals so there is not much room left for a full service model.


So in this scenario there is always an unsightly mill for what is left over. Digital agencies make outrageous claims without case studies, research or long term trends to back them up. Some clients believe them! The current obsession with incentivising retailers has helped  only below the line and promotions agencies communicate more Sales and more Offers.


Brand marketing teams are being withdrawn from Ireland to the UK like fighter pilots on the eve of the fall of France.

So what does the future hold, well here a few of my Mystic Megs:


  1. The digital bubble will burst and become once again an exciting and potentially  game changing brand medium without the current set of religious nuts who represent it.
  2. The focus will move back to understanding consumer behavior and dark arts like Account Planning, Research, Trendspotting and Tracking…remember them.
  3. Pitch doctors  will shortlist an agency that wasn’t founded in 1916,,,only joking this will never happen.
  4. Big creative ideas will be back in vogue in all media.
  5. Advertising people will be once again well paid, respected, admired and held in regard by brand owners (see end point no 3)


But all of that aside perhaps it is a time for the Irish advertising industry to realise that we have (at least some of us so far) survived the greatest recession in irish history. We should not be too hard on ourselves but instead to paraphrase the advice on my coffee mug “Keep Calm and Carry on”. Never was so much owed by so many to so few…just look at that Knorr shake in the bag TV ad…what more do you want…Blood?

Choosing the right partner.

Choosing the right advertising agencyThere are a few obvious pointers when choosing the right Communications partner, a bit like your friends you don’t always have to get along with them, but good chemistry does help. And choose carefully, because with the right choice you could be together a long time.


A good agency is like a good restaurant. Same quality control, attention to detail, desire to please.


There are front of house staff; maître d’hôtels, account executives, sommeliers, planners that must have the knowledge and skill to interpret what the customer wants or needs and well as explaining the plat du jour.


There are the back of house staff; the chefs du cabinets, art directors, copy strategists, artists and writers who create and deliver the vision, excellence and ideas.


There are the chefs de partie, managers, expediters, traffic and production teams who ensure that the right message and work gets delivered to the right table on time.


Supporting cast includes the supervisors, cashiers, accounts and receptionists required in any business to ensure smooth operation and accurate billing.


On top of that the suppliers – Butchers, Fruit and Veg merchants, the Media, Fishmongers, Production Companies, Wine Merchants, Contractors, etc. – are equally important to ensure that all the ingredients are of the finest quality and in season.


All must play their part. Good food will compensate for bad service, but consistently bad food will never be overcome by great service, weakness in one area will impact on another and detract from the overall experience. Just as you can tell how passionate a good Restaurant is about the package when you walk in, you can sense a good (or bad) agency almost immediately.


Other considerations.


Are they in the right time at the right place – for you. There’s no point going to the flashiest designer or Michelin starred restaurant if you just want a logo to fit in with existing brand identity or a Hamburger. Likewise you don’t go to blunt pencil design or a food stall if you need a corporate make-over or wedding catered for. Trust your own instinct as you would a good chef.


Can they manage all or some of your needs? Are you looking for a one-stop shop or just one specific skill, a table d’hôte or à la carte. Most agencies are jacks of all trades and can provide the full service adequately. Others offer specific specialist skill sets or alternative cuisines. There appears to be recent movement back toward the set menu as opposed to the buffet option. Decide on what’s best for you but don’t just go for fad or flavour of the month.


Do you have a budget? It is remarkable how flexible things have become in the recession but you still can’t expect star cuisine for diner prices. Be realistic in your expectations of your wallet when you approach the menu and you’ll be surprised what can be achieved.


In some magical relationships you will achieve the magical trinity of quality, service and price in one restaurant or even campaign. Mostly though it stands to reason that you need to decide which two of the trinity you need to achieve, and balance your needs and expectations accordingly. Be clear in your particular dietary needs as they will dictate your future partner’s approach.


And remember. Never sign off on or order something you’re not comfortable with. It’s a sure recipe for disaster.


Bon appétit.


Is there a future for Advertising Agencies?

The future of advertising in IrelandUnfortunately, several previous predictions have materialized and while one or two have thrived, the remainder have not and a few Agencies are still hanging on by their fingernails. We have witnessed a decimation of the Industry with some reports suggesting that employment in the sector has “downsized” by over 40% over the past two years.


So does this mean there’s more to share amongst those remaining. I suspect not. Confidence appears to be returning from the depths of gloom however the digital evolution, another communications channel mind, is experiencing irrational growth fuelled by brand managers opting for cheap volume over meaningful awareness and who is to blame them as traditionalists ignore or belittle the medium. There are great opportunities, as clients returning with budgets to be planned over a period and not just spent as projects, are more than ever determined to challenge and extract maximum poundage.


Let’s hope that the Ad business can educate experienced marketeers as to the value of at least medium term relationships that result in proper thinking expressed in great creative work versus the cut and paste, poorly re-voiced, run of the mill work that has come to the fore in recent times. There is tremendous opportunity to improve the thinking and quality of work and in doing so portray the Island as a centre for creative excellence and not just to indigenous advertisers. There is a real balance between financial pragmatism and fighting for good hard working creativity. Our own business is developing as we walk that challenging tightrope with our colleagues every day. Let’s hope the industry still has the collective brain power left to make these commercial arguments.