10 Things I’ve Learned From an Advertising Agency

Its been almost three years since I joined Tribal DDB. Three years of working in the industry after being quite adversarial towards advertising. Here’re some truths I’ve learned from the last few years:

1. Emotional communication is more effective than rational communication – its why creatives want to focus on storytelling rather than product attributes

2. The truth is what you say it is with enough conviction (and media weight)

3. Award-winning work is more effective than non-award winning work but I’m not sure if this a chicken or an egg. Surely the most effective work will win the most awards? Something for our head of planning to work out!

4. Creativity can break through and have commercial value if it is allowed to flourish

5. “New” media executions are always more impactful than established ones – people haven’t been trained to tune them out yet. The first ever banner ad had 50-75% CTR, depending on whose presentation deck you believe

6. People dislike advertising in general, but like it in particular (this insight via Cindy Gallop) – even when I was working in PR I would appreciate and share the best, most creative and compelling work I saw.

7. The difference between departments is no where as large as the difference within departments.

8. It is more forgivable to sell a bad idea really well than it is to sell a good idea really badly

9. The more specific the brief, the more generic the insights that fill it. The art of writing a brief that is just right (not too tight and prescriptive but specific and smart enough to have the desired effect) is just that. Come to think of it, there are no such things as perfect briefs. Just smart, hard working teams blurring the lines between account, strategy, creative, production, technology and everything in between. Because…

10. This is absolutely a people business. Relationships get things done within and outside an agency’s walls. Without trust and a common goal, we flounder. I’m lucky to work with great people in an industry that challenges me each and every day.


6 Responses to 10 Things I’ve Learned From an Advertising Agency

  1. Parker says:

    You totally should have made that banner ad actually link to something. Even just your Twitter profile.

  2. Parker says:

    Awww….you shouldn’t have!

  3. Thanks for the smart and insightful post Ed. It was perfect for a Sunday evening. Gave me a lot to reflect on. I especially agree with point 7. I’m always amazed at the tendency for “industries” to stick their heads up out of the trenches and pronounce themselves “uniquely qualified” for a particular challenge. No industry is by definition. It’s the people within. And teams change each time a new person arrives and another departs. That’s where the differences really are. Within the teams. And it’s our greatest challenge as agency leaders. To build cohesive, coherent teams from moving and very different parts.

    Cheers Mate.

  4. […] 10 Things I’ve Learned from an Advertising Agency by Ed Lee […]

  5. […] As I’ve said before, although in the context of media units, what’s new is usually effective vs its predecessors until everyone else catches up. Perhaps the same could be said of trends – the effectiveness starts the trend and once its a full-blown trend, it becomes the norm. Which, in this case, is a very good thing. Transparency. Authenticity. Good people doing good things for good reasons. […]

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