Later in this post, I’ll opine on how I think a large conglomerate thought it would benefit itself to be represented by a boxing octopus. But first, this:
I think one of the things advertising agencies are worst at is branding themselves.
You can take a journey across the Internet and see how different companies have tried to differentiate themselves in a cutthroat creative industry, but what you’ll mostly find are some variations on the theme “our people make us great.”
It’s hard not to wind up in this spot. At the end of the day, advertising (and marketing in general) is about ideas, thought up by imaginative people and molded into functioning campaigns through the will of many, and the vision of a few.
People write the copy, layout the artwork, type the code and yell at each other in conference rooms as great ideas are made good enough and bad ideas are punched up above their station.
But, ultimately, clients don’t care about people. They care about the work. They want to see that funny ad they remember, or know that you’ll get them a concept that can only be shot in Brazil.
They want to see the reel.
A client may want to know that the people he’ll be working with aren’t going to be total douchebags, but if you give him a concept that gets him a raise, he’ll deal with it.
Your brand doesn’t mean nearly as much to him as HIS brand.
Which brings me to the boxing octopus.
Today, a large ad agency made up of other large ad agencies merged together through a variety of machinations that had started to make little sense finally decided to rebrand itself.
Without knowing any details, it seems as though the new Mullen makes enough sense. All things to all people at the top. Just what you need at the lower levels.
And, I can see how in one of many (oh my god, how many…) meetings, it was thrown out there that an octopus would be the perfect metaphor for this new entity that could handle so many tasks for a client.
Somehow, this idea stuck. But, as it always goes, the simple idea of a many tentacled thing representing your many capabilities was too simple. Too easy. Too… Unimaginative.
So, the people got to work. They probably put a pencil and a paintbrush and a calculator and a number of other business tools in each tentacle.
They probably put the logos of every different division tattooed like barnacles.
They probably used an iPhone, an iPad and a generic-looking tablet with some Matrix-inspired code on the screen to represent how digital they are.
Ultimately, somebody put their fist down and in a loud voice told the room that they fight for their ideas, and that’s what matters the most.
This person probably makes a lot of money.
A few more weeks went by and the octopus ended up with boxing gloves on each hand. (It must have hands now, right?)
And a new client will glance at it. He will briefly wonder if they are fighting off bad ideas, or a shark, or some angry plankton, and then he will think about it no more.
He will ask to see the reel. And, he will make a decision.