I’ve come to an age where a lot of my friends are finally getting married. As each year goes by the summer weekends are gradually being crossed off the calendar and the dusting-off ceremony of my one blue suit is becoming a ritual. Last weekend I gave my trusty Topman number a quick inspection in preparation for 2017’s wedding line-up, only to find the knees have completely worn out as a result of an unsuccessful attempt of ‘the worm’ on a miscellaneous marital dance floor last year. The time had come. I needed to get a new whistle and flute.
Yesterday I ventured into Westfield for some after-work late-night suit shopping. Not quite the Thursday night of hammering jagerbombs in Soho of yesteryear, but I’m growing up now and my impending gout could do with some respite.
I popped into the first shop on my list only to find everything too stripy, too lairy and too skinny. The second shop on my list had a ‘Formalwear Advisor’ called Tom. And oh my goodness – Tom was the man. He has slicked back blonde hair, smelled how I imagine David Beckham smells and wore a suit that looked like it was moulded onto his frame by Greek Gods. Once I got over my inferiority complex, we had a brief chat and Tom gave me a few suits to try on. I squeezed into them one-by-one and each time came out to timidly parade myself down the fitting room catwalk. I really didn’t like them. But Tom loved all of them. He popped my collar, brushed my lapels off and patted my back to the point where I thought maybe through my squinted eyes I did look quite good after all. Hmmmm. I ummed and ahh’d and eventually I decided to ‘leave it for now’ (which obviously means no) and try the third and final shop on my list.
‘Hang on a sec buddy’ Tom said, chasing after me. ‘I can do you a really good discount on the navy one. I only need one more premium suit to hit my target for the month’.
I was gutted. I nearly believed Tom’s waxing lyrical and I nearly believed I actually looked good. I said goodbye to Tom and left him in shop number two with his cruel, cruel lies.
On the walk to my last shop I realised that my suit-shopping experience is something that I come across every day working with our clients.
Our clients want solutions that achieve their objectives. In the same way I need a suit for my weddings this summer, our clients want advertising and marketing technology that helps them achieve their objectives. And we both need help.
Before working with us, our clients have often gone through that technology decision process via their media planning and buying agencies. They’ve used their version of Tom. But Tom isn’t independent. He’s not making impartial recommendations. He’s getting paid for recommending certain solutions over others. You can’t be a neutral consultant if you’re getting kickbacks or incentives for pointing people down a certain path. It’s not morally right. And in the long run it won’t work.
VW Head of Communications & Media Planning, Oliver Maletz, said today that he wouldn’t buy media from a consultancy – “we think their interest is more likely to be in partnering with advertisers to provide the technology solutions for more efficient, transparent media placement”. I completely agree with him. It’s blurring the lines of the concept of consulting.
However, his theory should also work the other way round. Media agencies should be focussed on the planning and buying of media and not being technology consultants. Naturally not all media agencies are incentivised to push their clients towards certain technology routes, but if I were a client I’d like to minimise the risk completely and use someone I know who is 100% unbiased.
If a client doesn’t use an independent person or company for their technology choices, Tom will keep getting his bonuses and everyone will be walking around in ill-fitting suits. And no one wants that now do they?