'The Wall', probably the best of Pink Floyd's conceptual work to-date and arguably one of the most successful communication strategies ever to communicate brand truth (conceived by the de facto Pink Floyd leader Roger Waters) – both commercially and creatively.
Roger wrote 'The Wall' as a reflection of his own fears, losses and anger with the 'so called' managers of the society, tracing all the way back to the time when he was five months old and lost his father to the war. It's the story of a soul unsettled, a baby left alone, a child who never grew up, a frightened youth; the life of a man who refused to accept the system.
(Roger Waters breaking through his Wall, 2012: Photograph by GabeMc)
When I diverted my career path from the music industry to become a planner in advertising eleven years previous, it was because I was inspired by the idea of brands driving both 'social and economic progress'. After joining the world of advertising, I was taught that we (ad people) and marketing were in a partnership to achieve the greater good for business and society at large.
But after all these years, I am forced to…
…with what I see versus what I was taught, as I see this Wall standing in front of all of us. This is The Wall between advertising and marketing. And this Wallis called 'The Agency Process' – always worked through away from the marketing teams. We have it for everything; from receiving a challenge from the marketing teams, to performing research, to planning strategies, to communicating with creatives, technologists and even the audience. This Wall is 'The Tool' that is used to protect ad agencies from brands about the inconvenient truths of commercial advertising.
Like all the other Walls in our society (as explained by Roger), this Wall is also built around fear and greed – whether we accept it or not. It represents our 'fearful & materialistic' mind-set, suggesting that if marketing departments know too much about what we do and how we do it, we might lose what we have and what we can have. So, with each passing day, we continue to add more bricks to strengthen this Wall. We continue to fight to protect our adland using the 'weapons of mass processes'.
This Wall also causes another type of problem – lack of imagination and creativity. As our advertising brains get stuck between the sliding doors of decks, visions, stimuli, channel truths, data discovery, brand ladders, funnels, pyramids, onions, job bags, briefing papers, tools, EOs and POs and what not, we hardly give ourselves room to think about the reality of it all. Ultimately, losing our feelings and passion for what we really should be doing – improving the lives of people and value of brands.
Sigh – that looking into the mirror of advertising, the majority of what I see are vultures, gnawing off every last bit of what brands have with their 'looks cool, sounds cool' circles.
So, when was the last time we approached our day-to-day work with the mission to improve the lives of our audience? Do we remember when instead of funnelling the brand challenge into an infinite list of cash obsessed processes, we approached our work with the intention of putting in honest graft for the brand and people? When was the last time we worried more about the challenges faced by the marketing team and less about how many 'labelled' hours we could sell? And when was the last time we stood against The Wall, instead of standing behind it?
"Ooooh, Ma, Oooh Pa
Must the show go on?
Ooooh, Pa. Take me home
Ooooh, Ma. Let me go
There must be some mistake
I didn't mean to let them
Take away my soul.
Am I too old, is it too late?
Ooooh, Ma, Ooooh Pa,
Where has the feeling gone?
Ooooh, Ma, Ooooh Pa,
Will I remember the songs?"
The Wall – The show must go on
Life's most valuable relationships are based on honesty of feelings/doings and openness of thoughts not processes, protocols and Walls. If this were not the case, timesheets and tools for maintaining relationships with parents, children, siblings, partners and friends would be ubiquitous. (Sadly, these are not unheard of, nor as uncommon as they once were.)
Perhaps, our relationship with brands and marketing can be more meaningful if built without Walls. With curtains removed, we will be free from fear to do what needs to be done for brands, their marketing teams and societies at large. To disobey when needed, to fight when required. Because when there's nothing to hide, there's nothing to be afraid of.
It's certainly a difficult concept for most agencies to accept. When the arrival of a client initiates the best behaviour all-office email, when agency growth strategy is developed in isolation from the brand's development strategy, when adland's corporate boardrooms change their tune after a client's departure and when processes are built to increase agency's revenue alone – there remains very little hope. However, over the years we have seen that strong and open 'WallLess' relationships between advertising and marketing teams have led to truly exceptional growth for both brands and agencies, whilst improving the lives of people. Samsung & Cheil, Nike & W+K, John Lewis & Adam and Eve, Unilever & BBH are just a few proof points.
I must confess, when I first saw client teams working on their laptops inside our agency, I was a little nervous too. I simply wasn't comfortable with the idea of marketing teams hot-desking on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. What if they didn't accept our systems? What if they simply disliked how we lived? What if they knew too much about what we did and how we actually did it? But over the time things have just gone better – now I feel comfortable seeing my marketing partners sitting inside the 'agency', doing their normal work. I have lost the fear of anyone knowing too much about our system, as there remains another view; if you really believe in something and stay true to it, then no one, no one, can take it away from you. Breaking through The Wall will only make you stronger and increase your value and influence. It will earn you even greater respect and appreciation. And if we are still in the state of denial, then at least, the working wonders of the social web are teaching us nothing but the same.