Why I’m afraid of clowns and you should be too.

November 19, 2007 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

In advertising and marketing, ideas are our currency. Everything else is a commodity.

I’m not just talking about the creative department. Great ideas can come from anywhere in the agency and from any person on your team. But for some reason, at most of the agencies I’ve worked for, the thinking and the creating was doled out to little groups of two. Writer. Art Director. Done.

The problem with that is, it’s only two perspectives. Imagine sailing into uncharted waters with a single telescope to look through. Sure, you can swing around and look somewhere else, but at any given moment, you can only look in one direction. Now imagine every sailor on the ship had a telescope and you could all look in different directions while talking to each other about what you were seeing. Wider aperture. Bigger sky.

Admittedly, the division of labor in an agency requires certain people to do certain jobs. What we’re talking about is the willingness and openness to field ideas from the receptionist and the junior account exec just like you would your creative director.

Look at the explosion of consumer generated content. As agency people, we all believe we can do a better job creating because that’s what we’ve been trained to do and where our talents lie. And in most cases, our thinking and creativity is better than the average bear. But the fact remains, there are now millions of people thinking. Creating. Solving problems. Entertaining. Doing all the things we do, and in some cases doing them very well.

Is Steven Spielberg worried about the kid with the HD camera and Final Cut Pro on his Mac? No. But he’s damn sure paying attention. And we’ve got to do the same thing. Both inside our houses and out.

People don’t come to the circus to see the clowns. They don’t come to see the elephants, or the ring master, or the dancing poodles. They come to see the guy get shot out of the cannon. They come to see the trapeze artists and tightrope walkers doing their thing without a net.

Clients hire agencies for ideas that are smart, audacious and ambitious. They want to see something they’ve never seen before. That’s what we deliver. It’s what we have to deliver.

Otherwise, we’re just a bunch of clowns.


Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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