Tag Archives: NDA

Understanding Advertising Agencies

I’ve worked in the advertising, marketing and branding business for about 25 years. I’ve spent about twenty of those at two different agencies. Now, the question you are undoubtedly asking yourself is this: who cares? Well, other agencies do. You see, {code} Roadies works mainly for agencies across the U.S., either with their own web team or in lieu of them. And the fact that our sister company is an agency means a lot.

Advertising, marketing and branding agencies are not like other businesses.

They’re also not like the TV versions you see on Mad Men or Blackish. We don’t drive Segways around the office or eat take-out during brainstorms for eight hours a day, every day (hello, cholesterol meds). Here are a few of the real characteristics that make the agency business unique:

It’s subjective

This is probably the most unique thing about being professional communicators. There is no single right answer to any one question or challenge. Some answers are certainly more effective than others, but in some ways even the results are open for interpretation (if sales don’t go up, but market share does – is that a win or a loss?). If your accountant says that two plus two equals four, you never say “I’ve never really liked the look of four. Let’s try seven.” 

It’s always changing

The minute you get the hang of one marketing tactic or technology, somebody comes up with a new one. In addition, your target audience changes with every single client. It takes a lot of practice to be able to change your way of thinking four or five times a day. One minute you’re talking to teenage boys, and the next minute you’re talking to baby boomers. They don’t speak the same language, so you need to become multi-lingual when it comes to your messaging.

Everybody is an expert

When you have a problem that deals with the law, you call a lawyer. The law is complicated, and it takes experience to understand it. But if you want a direct mail piece, you can just fire up Microsoft Word and make it yourself. You shouldn’t. But you can.

The Nike swoosh is a good example here. For more than 40 years, people have said to themselves, “I could have done that.” There’s a long and interesting conversation that follows about innovation and art and usability and target audiences and uniqueness, but it all ends in the same way: no, you most certainly couldn’t have done that.

It’s tethered to technology

OK, this is true for almost all businesses, but for agencies, it is like being chained to a rocket driven by Dr. Van Helsing from Cannonball Run. You never know where it is going next, and you have no choice but to go along for the ride. Today, it’s Snapchat. Tomorrow, who knows? Remember when thirteen-year-olds and thirty-seven-year-olds both watched Friends on Thursdays? Those days are gone.

In other words:

Agencies like working with a web developer who knows how weird their jobs can be.

And they like knowing that we’re not out to steal their clients. Just the opposite, really. We understand how valuable clients are, so we sign NDAs and stay backstage, letting everybody else take the spotlight. Our name wasn’t an accident: {code} Roadies are here to help agencies rock, not to steal their thunder.

Let’s compare crazy agency stories sometime. We probably have more in common than you thought.