Art for Art’s Sake

directorI recently participated in a client kick-off meeting attended by the advertising agency folks with whom we’d be sharing the account.

While not in the same league as Sterling, Cooper, the ad firm has been around since William Howard Taft’s administration and was notable for having created some of the more memorable campaigns of the past 50 years.

The new client asked each agency to give a quick overview and share relevant work.

The ad firm’s creative director went first.

Blessed with the voice of God, he reverently reviewed his firm’s pedigree, epoch-making campaigns of the past and ended with a flourish by proudly proclaiming how many Gold Lions the agency had just won at the most recent Cannes Festival (Madison Avenue’s answer to the Academy Awards).

When he finished, I felt as if I’d just listened to Ron Howard, Steven Spielberg or Stanley Kubrick wax poetic about the role of beauty in storytelling.

We went next. Disdaining a PowerPoint, we quickly explained our background, cut to the chase in demonstrating how well we knew the client’s target audience and immediately shared ways in which to engage with the audience.

The two presentations were as different as night and day.

In retrospect, I witnessed first-hand what I’d experienced for the past several decades:

– Ad agencies create content to win awards
– PR firms create content that engages audiences in conversations that will position the client as a natural fit in their personal or professional lives.

And, therein lies the difference. We’re not creating work to impress other creative directors from around the world. We’re pushing boundaries, engaging stakeholders and building a client’s business.

While the walls between our two disciplines are indeed crumbling, you won’t find Spielberg-like divas at PR firms (present company excluded, of course).

Art for art’s sake no longer cuts it.

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