Confessions of an adman

US Ad Age has an illuminating video interview with Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts about his books on Lovemarks. The interview is interesting because it gives a little of the story behind one of the best agency re-brand efforts in recent years. There is so much to admire in Roberts’ energy and drive to give a new face to the agency that was once of course the eponymous home of Maurice and Charles before they left to set up M&C Saatchi. I have read the first book and whilst much of it was motherhood-and-apple-pie stuff, it is charmingly direct and not a bad read for PR person looking to understand something of how advertising works.

It, and the interview, are also object lessons in some of advertising’s deficiencies, because whilst Roberts talks about intimacy he still seems to think this can be created mainly through one-way communications and like all admen he searches for the big idea that will take a brand to ‘Lovemark’ status. The big idea has been out there for a while now and its about a two-way relationship and conversations rather than just monolithic set-piece 30 second films or press ads.

My confession is that I too was once an adman working as a brand planner for a brilliant agency called Batey Ads in Asia where I developed a true love of advertising thinking and creativity (for an even better book on this subject see Iain Batey’s Asian Branding, A Great Way To Fly). We (PR people) have much to learn from advertising agencies still in terms of analytic thought, use of research and the bravery to push creative boundaries, but they have at least as much to take from our way of looking at things and most are simply not doing that fast enough.

I met Kevin Roberts in 1992 when I had to interview him in order to write the Annual Report of Lion Nathan, the New Zealand brewing company that he was running then (I have a long and rambling CV). He’s charismatic and entertaining and he’s succeeded in one of the biggest jobs there is . . . turning around an ailing advertising company.


Hugh McLeod of gapingvoid has just posted on Lovemarks as well.

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3 thoughts on “Confessions of an adman

  1. As an ex-Saatchi creative who developed traditional linear advertising, I agree that traditional ad agencies will struggle in a world dominated by conversations rather than the one-way ad campaigns of yore.

    All that said, I’m convinced that there will continue to be a role for memorable ads.

    However, the 99% of advertisements which aren’t memorable – and which represent the bulk of most ad agencie’s revenues – are not long for this world.


  2. I agree. I wonder as an ex advertising creative if you could point to any recent examples of ads that work in both worlds? In other words, that operate in the old ‘linear’ world as you descibe it, but also become a start-point or focus for conversations that brands have managed to sustain. Someone aske me this the other day and I couldn’t think of any myself, but can’t believe there aren’t some.


  3. The Dove ‘Evolution’ spot jumps to mind.


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