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Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The absurd inflation of the meaningless: what are you selling - bricks or hot air?

Today I am off to the Ogilvy offices in Manhattan to meet the man who won a contest to find the world's greatest salesperson.

His task was to sell a brick, and I hope to find out how he did it.

You know what a salesman is, right?

Someone who sells things.

Just as you know what a soldier is, or a cook, or a thief or a footballer.

But do you know what a National Strategy Director is?

I only enter into this because I just read that someone has just been appointed National Strategy Director at an advertising agency in Australia, and I was curious to know what exactly they do all day.

I mean, how often do you need to create a strategy for anything? A strategy is a long term thing. I once had to write one for what was then Ogilvy & Mather Direct. It was in essence a five year plan, and as someone who generally thinks ahead as far as lunchtime this was quite a challenge.

But unless you only have a very sketchy idea of what the word strategy means, they are not called for very often.

Which brings me back to Ogilvy. Years ago when he came to meet everyone at the agency I had just sold to Ogilvy & Mather I first introduced him to my co-directors.

He asked Chris Jones, the Creative Director, "What do you do?"

Chris said, "I'm the Creative Director". David said, "Yes, but what do you do?"

What does a National Strategy Director do?

I would hope whoever runs the agency determines its strategy - or what are they paid for? And I would hope their clients have someone in charge of their strategy, too. If I were them I would hesitate to pass that job onto someone at the ad agency. It would be dereliction of duty.

If I had to guess, and knowing the ad agency business, I would imagine the National Strategy Director is there to blind clients with high sounding bullshit, starting with the title, so they can charge more money for what is essentially a very simple job - creating and placing advertising.

A bit like salesmanship, really.

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