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The Influencers
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Adland’s Concept of ‘Value’ Has Gone Topsy Turvy

Kode, 4 months, 3 weeks ago

KODE’s Dan Mallerman on how production companies are doing more for less while top execs simply get more. And Twixes.

Adland’s Concept of ‘Value’ Has Gone Topsy Turvy

Imagine being charged more for a pair of shoes you have always bought but upon receiving them you notice the laces have been removed; you can’t imagine it because that kind of carnage is beyond the realms of conceivability.

Buying confectionary these days is an exercise in parting with more money in return for a diminishing product. A Twix, perfect for that 3:30 cup of brew is 14% smaller than it was previously. Imagine being charged more to go to the cinema but you could only watch 86% of the film.

Walker’s claims that the size of their crisps are due to the size of the potatoes they are cut from. Fine. But why are their fewer crisps, yet the packets remain the same size, eh, Mr. and Mrs. Walker?

"Stop. What are you talking about, Daniel, you babbling baboon?" I hear you ask.

The topic of value has been quite prominent in our industry. Recently Martin Sorrell – Sir Martin Sorrell - has defended his £70m ‘reward’, for he is not a fan of the term ‘pay’ much like I prefer indoor activities enthusiast more than ‘man who likes drinking beer and playing pool’, or for some people the term outdoor activities enthusiast is preferable to ‘public masturbator’. It’s not surprising he’s defending it, as he is keeping it.

This is far from the first time that Sorrell has incurred the wrath of both the WPP shareholders, but the public in general. My political leanings aren’t relevant but I do find the idea of value, worth, of deserving riches that are, save for buying the Premier League TV rights, impossible to spend, a bit unpalatable. I wasn’t inclined to march immediately to say, for example, the Guardian comments section where many might (did) ring the ‘what about teachers, firemen, charity workers’ bell. There are very few who would argue that there’s a multitude of highly skilled, over worked people on this rock but it isn’t a fault free argument – it relies on an ideal – which life isn’t. 

What is value? Is it getting a good service for what you have paid for? Is it getting a good service and paying less than you expected? Is it receiving the kind of product that in turn allows your product to flourish? Does value constitute ‘worth’? Was spending the companies entire party budget on a Noel Edmonds look-a-like at last year's Christmas knees up really worth it? Unlikely. 

Working in advertising, the above criteria are certainly ticking boxes. There are, but for a lucky handful, quite severe restrictions on how much money there is to spend, and to whom it may be distributed. With this in mind, value, which is already subjective, becomes subjective and restrictive. 

I remember during business studies GCSE, my teacher, an affable. if not cut out for an inner London secondary school, asked me why I had decided to use a sandwich shop as my chosen business. I had told him that it was something I could relate to, and I can have any sandwich I want, whereas if I chose a posh restaurant I’d only be able to afford the starters. Or words to that effect. My point was that I understood what I could afford and so planned accordingly. 

Too often the perceived value of someone’s brand falls a little way behind the value of say, the production company, the post house, the agency or the music library. An example of this is when a brief arrives in our inbox. More often than not there is no known budget. This could be worded differently; there is no ‘known budget’ which the production company shall be privy to until they have submitted a budget that exceeds the now known budget. 

Alongside the brief are references of work which has gone viral (viral, viral, viral, VIRAL – viral and content, forever to be separated from their actual meanings by the slimmest of margins) and possibly one or two TVCs – this is what the client is now seeing in their mind’s eye – but sadly with a meagre fraction of the capacity with which to achieve it. 

We at KODE Media have had to consider what is valuable to our company. Often that has meant considering the long term over short term, the dreaded ‘there is no budget but if we do this then the next job is yours’. Well, for a new company we had to take those risks, but they have proved pivotal to establishing ourselves. In essence we might well have devalued our capabilities in order to enhance them – if you know what I mean? Value is, as mentioned, completely subjective. 

This brings me back to Martin Sorrell’s £70m (or £133 per minute) and the idea of value. Why is that money there in the first place? If the money is there, we can assume success has been had, can’t we? Then what is stopping him from taking his portion of a company he has built over thirty years? 

Perhaps it is missing the point; perhaps the point is that value to Martin Sorrell is blood sweat and tears- ludicrously pricey blood, sweat and tears no doubt. So then why is there such a definitive line between what is valuable to a brand, and what they are prepared to spend in order to enhance that brands status? After all, no company ever started one evening and was a roaring success come the following morning. 

Blood, sweat and tears – pride and self worth are all pivotal to creating anything, in this case the creation of an advertisement that goes some way to telling people ‘Look. Look at what I have done. Now look at how what I have done is valuable to you.’ 

Scrimping on that message undermines all that has gone before. 

Einstein said - yes that’s right Albert Einstein - that we should strive not for success but for value. Noble, without doubt, but I fear that where capitalism is concerned - and make no mistake this is not some utopian conundrum - value and success can quite often be identifiable by just how little value you put on your success.