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It's All About The Money, Isn't It

Aug 17, 2007
Advertising is a competitive field; there is no question about it. Having been in this industry for over twenty years, I have seen many changes: some good, some bad but the core basics of the business remain constant. What used to take weeks to accomplish fifteen years ago virtually takes days but the flip side of that is that in order to do that, you have to stay up with technology and constantly learn. I often laugh with colleagues that one day my head will truly explode with all the information it is being fed.

The reward, however, is the final product and glory for each client. The bottom line in advertising always was and still is one thing: the client.

Within the industry I am known as a 'relationship' builder -- I like to network and combine talents and see people soar. In my career, I have been extremely fortunate to have been given many chances way before I was ready simply because someone believed in me. The most valuable education I have ever received had been through the jobs I acquired early in my career receiving the guidance of some of the most talented Art Directors in New York.

One disturbing change I see today within my industry is the lack of teamwork that was rampant twenty years ago. Today, it is everyone for themselves, which unfortunately, is short-term thinking. Years ago, people did whatever it took to achieve a deadline and everyone on board was a dedicated pro. Today, the pro's are few and far between and dedication has a price which, unfortunately, usually is not worth the price.

Although I have a talented and competent staff, I like to give 'new talent' a chance and perhaps create new opportunities for them. Last year, I had put together a very simple website for myself and asked a young man I knew if he would code it for me. The understanding was that if he did a good job within a reasonable amount of time, I would consider hiring him for ongoing work. That seemed fair especially since he had so little on his resume.

Since this is my business, I was fully aware that the website should have taken a few days to do but I was experimenting with new talent so I let it go it's course.

The results were interesting and something I have experienced often in the recent years. This young man actually took two months to complete a very simple project without ever returning one phone call to me. The final invoice given to me was astronomical -- not worth the work and I was charged for work that he never did. Instead of breaking things down, he literally charged me for two months of nothing -- including his sleep time.... Needless to say, I have no use for this gentleman to ever join my advertising agency and I doubt he will go far.

Technology has created new rules within my industry that has opened up a 'Wild-West' mindset: basically anything goes because the average client has absolutely no idea what is involved to make their project happen nor should they. Although I do not expect my clients to know how to do what my agency does, I do work very closely with each client educating them of the process and what is available for them within their budget. Every job is different and I am a firm believer in building as you go and expand as a business creates revenue. Oftentimes, clients do not think past a design or logo and run out of money during the most vital part of the process: the marketing. Let's face it; what good is a highly expensive design or a ten thousand dollar book cover if there is no money left within the budget to market that product?

Well, the unfortunate truth is that many players within my industry (who basically are my competition) really don't care and the irony is is that their success rate is not very high.

Another interesting situation followed only a few weeks ago. Recently, I have added videos to my services to market books and products. My thought process was that if the movie industry can create movie trailers to entice the public, why not do the same for an upcoming book? The success has been enormous for the authors I work with and we have a ball putting an authors book 'to the big screen',

A California IT firm wanted to merge with my agency and asked to view my most recent book promo video, Seduced by Fear. What I didn't expect was that he retouched my work and the final result looked similar to the old Japanese movies where the lip sinking did not match -- the spoken words within my video were going much faster that the mouths were moving. Even more disturbing was that I was charged $5,000.00 for tampering with my work. What was that all about? Well, it doesn't matter because there was no merge nor was any check written.

My concern is and always has been with each client. Too many innocent people are getting taken advantage of by 'professionals' who are really amateurs trying to 'play with the big boys' and make a quick buck. When clients comes to me for work, I insist that they do their 'homework' before committing to any contract and check my references as well as 'interview' a few other Agencies. With the onset of the Internet, businesses can seem much more successful or larger than they actually are and it is easy to get fooled and...ripped off.

The benevolence within me will always continue to seek out new talent. Optimistically speaking, once in a while, I am happy to say, I really do get lucky. In order to be successful, integrity must be combined with talent and it saddens me that so little is found today. On my more dramatic days, I sort of like to think of myself as the 'Elliot Ness' of advertising -- weeding out those who do bad business to protect the public. After all, without clients how can Advertising be successful?
About the Author
A native New Yorker, Judi Lynn Lake resides in South Carolina, with her husband and 7-year-old daughter. She successfully runs her own Advertising/PR Firm. Contact Judi at http://www.judilake.com
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